Thinking Inside the Box

It’s difficult to determine how these things get started—how the results of a well-documented experiment conducted nearly 40 years ago become twisted into the frequently made—and widely-accepted—claim that “even well-fed cats hunt.”

This would appear to be a case of validity through repetition: repeat a claim often enough and, eventually, people will come to believe it’s true—never bothering to check the original source. (Pro Tip: For added efficacy, click the heels of your ruby-red slippers together while repeating the claim.)

This, it should go without saying, is not how science is supposed to work. Read more

Common Sense for Cats

Have you seen the just-launched Common Sense for Cats website yet? It’s an Alley Cat Allies initiative that the organization describes as “an online resource to educate about outdoor cats and Trap-Neuter-Return, the only humane and effective program to stabilize—and reduce—outdoor cat populations.”

The site serves as a useful primer—courtesy of some very nice visuals—for those not already familiar with TNR and the larger “cat debate.” It’s easy to share via Facebook and Twitter, and there’s even a petition you can sign “to help ensure that humane policies for cats are a major take-home message for local policymakers across the country.” Signatures will be presented “at the upcoming meetings for the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, and the United States Conference of Mayors to let them know that Americans want humane policies for cats in their communities.” (Just last week, Alley Cat Allies delivered more than 55,000 signatures to the Smithsonian Institution in response to the publication earlier this year of agenda-driven junk science produced by researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.)

Thank you, Alley Cat Allies!

War on Nature, War on Cats

In Nature Wars, to be released next week, award-winning journalist Jim Sterba argues that it’s time for Americans to reconnect with nature—and what better incentive than a massive lethal control campaign against any number of plants and animals, including feral cats? His book reflects attitudes that are out of step with contemporary culture, and a rationale that’s not supported by the science. As the song says: War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’…

“People have very different ideas regarding what to do, if anything, about the wild creatures in their midst,” writes Jim Sterba in his new book Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards Into Battlegrounds, “even when they are causing problems.”

“Enjoy them? Adjust to them? Move them? Remove them? Relations between people and wildlife have never been more confused, complicated, or conflicted.” [1]

Agreed. And I largely agree with Sterba’s diagnosis: “Americans have become denatured.”

“That is to say, they have forgotten the skills their ancestors acquired to manage an often unruly natural world around them, and they have largely withdrawn from direct contact with that world by spending most of their time indoors, substituting a great deal of real nature with reel nature—edited, packaged, digitized, and piped in electronically.” [1]

So what’s the solution? Here, Sterba and I part company. Read more

National Feral Cat Day: Traps on Sale!

National Feral Cat Day is just around the corner—October 16th. And to mark the occasion, Tomahawk Live Trap and Tru-Catch are offering special discounts.

For additional information, please check out Alley Cat Allies’ NFCD 2012 page.

HAHF-Truths, HAHF-Measures, Full Price (Part 5)

Complaining of the impacts of free-roaming cats on wildlife and the environment, along with a range of public health threats, dozens of veterinarians in Hillsborough County, Florida, have banded together to fight TNR. Evidence suggests, however, that their real concern has nothing to do with the community, native wildlife, or, indeed, with cats. What the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation is most interested in protecting, it seems, is the business interests of its members.

In Part 5 of this five-part series, I discuss the apparent motives for HAHF’s recent campaign against TNR.

“All of the current issues have arisen from the No Kill movement that attempted to incorporate some radical changes to our county shelter without following the normal governmental process,” explained Don Thompson, executive director of HAHF, in a recent e-mail.

“A big part of the 11-point plan (point 1) is county-endorsed and -funded TNR—and initially, that was going to happen without public input. We objected, and the process is now being properly engaged… We are not in favor of county funded or supported TNR, for all the reasons listed on our page.”

Thompson is referring to a series of events following Nathan Winograd’s February visit to Tampa, including the establishment of a task force, a move Ian Hallett, director of Hillsborough County Animal Services, describes in an August 7th memo to “Animal Advisory Committee Members” and “Registered Voters of Hillsborough County”: Read more

HAHF-Truths, HAHF-Measures, Full Price (Part 4)

Complaining of the impacts of free-roaming cats on wildlife and the environment, along with a range of public health threats, dozens of veterinarians in Hillsborough County, Florida, have banded together to fight TNR. Evidence suggests, however, that their real concern has nothing to do with the community, native wildlife, or, indeed, with cats. What the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation is most interested in protecting, it seems, is the business interests of its members.

In Part 4 of this five-part series, I look at Hillsborough County Animal Services as the agency struggles to move from a 35 percent live-release rate to “no-kill” status—a task made all the more difficult by HAHF’s campaign against TNR.

As I like to tell anybody who will listen, there’s no evidence whatsoever that we’re going to kill our way out of the “feral cat problem.” While it may be impossible to prove a negative, Hillsborough County, Florida, does make for a compelling case study.

A Grim Past
“Even though it is Florida’s fourth-largest county,” explains Francis Hamilton, Associate Professor of Management at Eckerd College, in his 2010 paper describing “the development and ongoing process of a social change effort and collaboration” in Hillsborough County, “it has euthanized more animals than any other county in the state.”

“From 1996 to 2008, Hillsborough County Animal Services (HCAS), the county’s public shelter, euthanized about 82 percent (over 306,000) of its animal intake. In calendar year 2005, 73 percent of dogs entering the shelter were euthanized, as were 92 percent of cats.” [1]

In February 2007, Hillsborough County became one of four communities in the country targeted that year by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as part of its Mission: Orange initiative. A team of outside consultants was deployed, tasked with “report[ing] on current programs” and “recommend[ing] areas ripe for change which could increase adoptions, while reducing shelter intake and euthanasia.” ASPCA committed $200,000 “to be invested in the area’s animal welfare community for each of the next three years.” [2] Read more

HAHF-Truths, HAHF-Measures, Full Price (Part 3)

Complaining of the impacts of free-roaming cats on wildlife and the environment, along with a range of public health threats, dozens of veterinarians in Hillsborough County, Florida, have banded together to fight TNR. Evidence suggests, however, that their real concern has nothing to do with the community, native wildlife, or, indeed, with cats. What the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation is most interested in protecting, it seems, is the business interests of its members.

In Part 3 of this five-part series, I discuss some of the science surrounding Toxoplasma gondii, and challenge HAHF’s claim that TNR increases the exposure risk for toxoplasmosis.

Cats and Toxoplasma gondii
As recently as last week, the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation was insisting that cats are the only source of Toxoplasma gondii—essentially that without cats, there’s no toxoplasmosis. It looks like they’ve done some editing in the past few days, and the particular statement I’m recalling has been removed.

In any case, it’s not quite that simple. Read more

HAHF-Truths, HAHF-Measures, Full Price (Part 2)

Complaining of the impacts of free-roaming cats on wildlife and the environment, along with a range of public health threats, dozens of veterinarians in Hillsborough County, Florida, have banded together to fight TNR. Evidence suggests, however, that their real concern has nothing to do with the community, native wildlife, or, indeed, with cats. What the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation is most interested in protecting, it seems, is the business interests of its members.

In Part 2 of this five-part series, I use Florida Department of Heath data for rabies cases (in animals) and possible rabies exposures (humans) to challenge HAHF’s claim that free-roaming cats pose a significant rabies threat.

The “trouble with trap-neuter-re(abandon!),” as the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation explains on its website, “is simply stated by the executive summary of the 2012 Florida Department of Health Rabies Guide.”

“The concept of managing free-roaming/feral domestic cats (Felis catus) is not tenable on public health grounds because of the persistent threat posed to communities from injury and disease. While the risk for disease transmission from cats to people is generally low when these animals are maintained indoors and routinely cared for, free-roaming cats pose a continuous concern to communities. Children are among the highest risk for disease transmission from these cats.” [1]

“Veterinarians are legally required to follow the Rabies Guide,” argues HAHF. “As a result, we are gravely concerned about Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), and the implications of any such county funded or endorsed program.”

But if TNR truly increases the risk of rabies exposure, what difference does it make where the funding comes from? (I’ll get into that in Part 5.)

In any case, veterinarians are legally required to follow the law.

And while the Rabies Guide (PDF), issued by the Florida Department of Health, cites a variety of statutes, codes, and ordinances—in addition to multiple references to the “legislative authority” granted the Florida DOH—it’s curious that the publication doesn’t actually refer to any law prohibiting “the concept of managing free-roaming/feral domestic cats.” (In fact, the entire section covering free-roaming cats is of such poor quality—claims directly contradicting CDC data and reports, for example, and its failure to acknowledge the potential for TNR to provide a rabies barrier between wildlife and humans [2]—one wonders about the motivation of its authors. Perhaps I’ll tackle this in a future post.)

Humans (Possibly) Exposed to Rabies
“More than 2,000 people were exposed to rabid or potentially rabid animals in Florida in 2010,” explains HAHF. “This represents a 46 percent increase over the five-year average, and cats represented 25 percent of the incidents.” In fact, the increase was—according to the very report HAHF cites—actually 41.33 percent, with cats representing 24 percent of “exposed persons for whom treatment was recommended.” [3] But that’s quibbling, I suppose.

What’s far more interesting is how HAHF chose to “edit” their summary of the Florida DOH report, which is worth quoting at length:

“In 2001, reporting of animal encounters for which rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended was initiated. Rabies PEP is recommended when an individual is bitten, scratched, or has mucous membrane or fresh wound contact with the saliva or nervous tissue of a laboratory-confirmed rabid animal, or a suspected rabid animal that is not available for testing. The annual incidence of exposures PEP is recommended has increased since case reporting was initiated. In 2010, the incidence rate was up 41.33 percent over the previous five-year average although the number of confirmed rabid animals decreased in 2010 compared to 2009. This increase in PEP may be due to improved reporting, increased exposures to possible rabid animals, increased inappropriate or unnecessary use of PEP, or a combination of factors. Reductions in state and local resources may contribute to increases in inappropriate or unnecessary use of PEP by decreasing resources to investigate animal exposures and confirm animal health status, and by reducing county health department staff time to provide regular rabies PEP education for health care providers.” [3, emphasis mine]

(As I pointed out in my previous post, HAHF may very well be contributing to the “increased inappropriate or unnecessary use of PEP” with all their scaremongering.)

Suddenly, what seems like a dramatic uptick in rabies exposure—one in which HAHF suggests cats played a key role—looks more like what it is: the result of several poorly understood (and, in some cases, competing) factors. Puzzling, but hardly the public health threat suggested by HAHF.

Interestingly, dogs were implicated in 46 percent of PEP incidents, nearly twice as many as were cats. And, 75 percent of the owned animals (which made up 20 percent of the total) involved in the 2,114 exposures that occurred in 2010 were pet dogs. [3] My point is not to shift attention to dogs, but simply to add a little perspective. One would expect HAHF—as members of the veterinarian community concerned for “our precious children”—to at least acknowledge the point.

Instead, HAHF quotes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “In 2009, rabies cases among cats increased for the second consecutive year. Three times more rabid cats were reported than rabid dogs.” Which is true—but also misleading. As a report of CDC data makes clear: “differences in protocols and submission rates among species and states [make] comparison of percentages of animals with positive results between species or states… inappropriate.” [4]

In other words, the rabies surveillance data at the heart of all these claims are not an accurate reflection of rabies prevalence in the population of any particular species. The low numbers for bobcats in Florida (just 44 across 20 years), for example, are likely a reflection of this cat’s relatively few encounters with humans as much as anything else.

Some additional perspective: since 1960, only two cases of human rabies in the U.S. have been attributed to cats. [5]

The Risks to Children
Contrary to the claims made in the Florida DOH Rabies Guide (“Children are among the highest risk for disease transmission from [free-roaming] cats.”) and on the HAHF website (“a large burden of the [public health] risk lies against our precious children!”), Florida DOH data suggest that the only age group less likely to be exposed to rabies is adults 55 and older. According to the 2010 Florida Morbidity Statistics Report (from which the chart below was taken):

“The average age of the victim for the 2,114 cases reported in 2010 was 37 years, with a range from under one year to 110 years of age. The highest incidence was seen in individuals aged between 20 and 24 years, but incidence was similar for ages 15 to 19 and 45 to 54 years. There were some variations in age based on the type of animal involved. Average age for those recommended to receive PEP who were exposed to dogs was 32 years; cats, 41 years; and wildlife, 43 years.” [3, emphasis mine]

Rabid Animals
It’s perfectly understandable for public health officials to focus on possible exposure and PEP incidents—but it’s also worth looking at the data documenting confirmed cases of rabid animals in Florida and Hillsborough County. (Tampa Bay Online has developed a handy interactive state map of 2006–09 rabies cases.) Doing so reveals a steady downward trend since the mid-1990s* at both the state [6] and county levels, [7] as indicated in the graphs below.

The trend is even more striking when one considers Florida’s population explosion over the same period, from 12,937,926 in 1990 to 18,801,311 in 2010, an increase of 45 percent. More people means more pets—as well as the kinds of interactions with wildlife that lead to increased surveillance reporting.

Now, I’m not prepared to attribute the notable downturn in rabies cases—in cats and in animals overall—to TNR. There are simply too many factors involved. On the other hand, the trend challenges the assertion made by HAHF (and the Florida DOH in its Rabies Guide) that TNR—which has become increasingly popular over the past 20 years—leads to an increased risk of rabies exposure.

•     •     •

*The data suggest that the sharp increase during the early 1990s was due to an increase in rabies cases among the state’s raccoon population.

Coming up:

• Part 3: Toxoplasmosis prevalence
• Part 4: Hillsborough County Animal Services: Past, Present, and Future
• Part 5: Would the real HAHF please stand up?

Literature Cited
1. n.a., Rabies Prevention and Control in Florida, 2012. 2012, Florida Department of Health: Tallahassee, FL. www.myfloridaeh.com/newsroom/brochures/rabiesguide2012.pdf

2. Clifton, M. (2010). How to introduce neuter/return & make it work. Animal People, pp. 3–4, from http://www.animalpeoplenews.org/10/4/April10.htm

3. n.a., 2010 Florida Morbidity Statistics Report. 2011, Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control, Bureau of Epidemiology: Tallahassee, FL. http://www.doh.state.fl.us/disease_ctrl/epi/Morbidity_Report/2010/2010_AMR.pdf

4. Blanton, J.D., et al., “Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2008.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2009. 235(6): p. 676–689. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19751163

www.avma.org/avmacollections/rabies/javma_235_6_676.pdf

5. n.a., “Recovery of a Patient from Clinical Rabies—California, 2011.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2012. 61(4): p. 61–64. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6104a1.htm

6. n.a., 20 Year Animal Rabies Summary by Species (1991–2010) 2011, Florida Department of Health: Tallahassee, FL. http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/medicine/rabies/Data/2010/Rabies20YrTable91_10.pdf

7. n.a. Rabies Surveillance: Charts, Maps, and Graphs. 2006 [cited 2012 August 25].  http://www.doh.state.fl.us/Disease_ctrl/epi/rabies/chart.html.

HAHF-Truths, HAHF-Measures, Full Prices (Part 1)

Complaining of the impacts of free-roaming cats on wildlife and the environment, along with a range of public health threats, dozens of veterinarians in Hillsborough County, Florida, have banded together to fight TNR. Evidence suggests, however, that their real concern has nothing to do with the community, native wildlife, or, indeed, with cats. What the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation is most interested in protecting, it seems, is the business interests of its members.

This was Take Your Cat to the Vet Week, a time “to raise awareness of the fact that cats need an annual veterinarian examination just as much as dogs,” according to Feline Pine, the litter manufacturer responsible for the occasion’s creation. In Hillsborough County, Florida, however, it was a time for many in the veterinary community to reiterate their opposition to TNR.

“We love cats!” Don Thompson assured me earlier this week via e-mail. “Any person who argues that vets don’t love animals is being foolish.” But, just like David Aycock, chief animal control officer for Pompano Beach, Thompson’s love has its limits—feral cats need not apply.

Thompson’s not a vet himself, but an attorney. He, along with his veterinarian wife, Katie, operate the Veterinary Center at Fishhawk, and he’s also head of the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation, whose members are, according to the HAHF website, “gravely concerned about Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).” Read more

Facts Felina

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, No Kill Conference attendees were clearly hungry for more TNR resources—programs and program funding, but also legislation and policies that would more effectively protect unowned cats. It was, therefore, an excellent time to release the first three Vox Felina TNR Fact Sheets. Read more

2012 No Kill Conference Wrap-Up

Three brief take-aways from the 2012 No Kill Conference, held this past weekend George Washington University’s Law School.

Momentum
The No Kill movement has, in a few short years, achieved a great deal. Today, 50 community shelters across the country (representing, if I’m not mistaken, more than 200 cities and towns) have achieved no-kill status, each saving the lives of at least 90 percent of animals brought in.

What’s more, there’s an enormous amount of momentum in the movement, as was demonstrated by the number of success stories shared by speakers and attendees alike—as well as the unmistakable energy in the air. The times, they are a changin’.

Tools for Success
One sign of a successful conference is when attendees are frustrated that they’re missing one great workshop by attending another. That was certainly the case this weekend. Clearly, there are certainly worse problems to have. And I didn’t hear a single complaint that any of the workshops was a disappointment.

Participants are now headed back to their communities equipped with the tools necessary to bring about change—from becoming more media savvy and more politically effective to creating a bottle baby program for saving unweaned kittens. (See previous Dylan quote.)

Push for TNR
My presentation, Witch-Hunt: How TNR opponents have co-opted science to target free-roaming cats, was very well received. Approximately 50 people attended Saturday’s session, and another 80 or so (standing-room only!) were there on Sunday. No small feat, considered I was “competing” with John Sibley (the man behind the In Dog We Trust blog), whose workshop focused on advocacy blogging. (See previous comment about there being too much great stuff going on all at once.)

The number of questions, and subsequent conversations, about TNR over the course of the weekend demonstrate a strong desire for additional resources (e.g., programs, education, etc.) and protections (e.g., policy, legislation, etc.) designed to put an end to the killing of stray, abandoned, and feral cats. Fed up with the cruel, costly, and ineffective trap-and-kill approach—practiced for generations now—people are demanding more of their local shelters and politicians.

Cue Dylan.

•     •     •

The No Kill Advocacy Center, No Kill Nation, the GW Law School’s Joan Schaffner and her team, and many others are to be commended for a job well done! Looking forward to 2013…

Kitty Cams and PR Scams

In a joint media release, the American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society team up to misrepresent the results of a recent predation study, decrying the “ongoing slaughter of wildlife by outdoor cats.” Meanwhile the University of Georgia researcher contradicts her previous position that “cats aren’t as bad as biologists thought.”

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”Edward R. Murrow

“‘KittyCam’ Reveals High Levels of Wildlife Being Killed by Outdoor Cats,” declares a media release issued today—a joint effort of the American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society, and, to my knowledge, the first of its kind.

It’s difficult not to see this as an act of desperation—the PR-equivalent of an all-caps e-mail. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner, though, given all that ABC and TWS have in common. Their shared disdain for TNR, obviously, but also their utter disregard for science, scientific literacy, and the truth about the impacts of free-roaming cats. Two peas in a pod, as it were. (Irony: peas are, alas, not native to North America.)

And so, their joint media release is exactly what one would expect: heavy on errors, misrepresentations, and glaring omissions, and light on defensible claims. Read more

Failures at Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge

Because “feral” cats lack the social skills that would make them suitable adoption candidates, explains Nathan Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, “there is no other animal entering a shelter whose prospects are so grim and outcome so certain.” [1] Sadly, even the best adoption candidates often don’t make it out alive, as Shirley Thistlethwaite reminded us recently on her blog YesBiscuit!.

In a three-part series beginning with last Tuesday’s post, Thistlethwaite describes (using documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests) a number of disturbing cases involving cats at Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge. Among the “highlights” are instances of cats killed despite people stepping forward to adopt them, sick cats not receiving prompt medical care, friendly cats killed for being “feral,”* and any number of discrepancies in shelter records. Read more

Westchester County, NY, Rabies Case

“A rabies alert was posted Tuesday by the Westchester County Department of Health,” reported the Tarrytown Daily Voice earlier this week, “after a police officer shot a stray cat who attacked him after trying to attack a man and woman in Elmsford.”

“When Elmsford Police Department responded, the cat chased the officer into a neighbor’s yard and attacked him. The cat bit the officer’s leg as he tried to fend off the animal, police said. The officer shook the cat from his leg, but the animal pounced at the officer again, puncturing his skin with its teeth and claws.

‘An officer got a few nasty bites and is being treated for rabies,’ [Elmsford Mayor Robert] Williams said Sunday night, before testing confirmed the cat had rabies. ‘You have to start the treatment right away while they are awaiting the results from the cat. He was released from the hospital later that day [Friday] and went home to rest. He returned to work the next day.’” [1]

No doubt TNR opponents will have a field day with this one. But how about a little perspective? Read more

Abductions, the Feral Cat Underground, and Eugenics

“Our cat vanished without a trace a couple of days ago. Then as mysteriously as he had disappeared he reappeared nearly forty-eight hours later at the kitchen door with a plaintive meow. He was dehydrated, malnourished and abused. His face was scratched, his belly shaved as if for surgery, and his left ear mutilated. He acted as if he were drugged or coming off anesthetic.”

Thus begins Mark Derr’s most recent post, published Friday, on Psychology Today’s Dog’s Best Friend blog. Malnourished? Hungry is probably a more accurate description. And mutilated? Well, ear-tipped.

Having ruled out both Santeria and Voodoo, Derr concluded that his cat, McDude, “had fallen prey to cat fanatics who reportedly were trapping and neutering cats in our Miami Beach neighborhood, then returning them to their little piece of paradise.” Read more

TNR In Prime Time

“We need to explode the concept of what a cat guy looks like, what a cat girl looks like,” argues Jackson Galaxy in his book, Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean. “We need a country literally full of cat guys and cat girls, bikers, politicians, clergy, and everyone in between, in order to keep millions from dying without homes.”

In Jackson’s case, the look includes a shaved head, sculpted facial hair, enormous earrings, and loads of tattoos. On last week’s episode of his wildly successful show, My Cat From Hell (which you can watch online), he revealed a new accessory: a humane trap. Read more

Prince George’s County, Maryland

“Bird lovers have just derailed a plan to save some alley cats from death at the hands of animal control,” writes Bruce Leshan in a WUSA-9 TV story that aired Tuesday. “When Prince George’s County Council woman Mary Lehman proposed to order animal control to release” TNR cats, “she ran into a storm of criticism at a council public hearing.” [1]

As Lehman pointed out, “This is not trail-blazing legislation. Fairfax County, Baltimore City, and Washington, DC, all have programs.”

So what’s the hold-up in Prince George’s County? Mostly the American Bird Conservancy, it seems.

“The American Bird Conservancy, which opposes ‘trap, neuter, and return,’ says what you are really doing is releasing predatory, ownerless cats back into the wild to kill again.” [1]

Presumably, ABC will be leading the charge when Lehman brings her bill up again in the fall, which she’s promised to do. Perhaps they can then explain to the Prince George’s County Council—and everybody else—the rationale for their position. Where’s the science to support the numerous claims they make to the media? Read more

Rabies: Some Much-Needed Perspective

Seven minutes and 35 seconds. That’s how long Robert Siegel, co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, spoke with Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy about their new book, Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus.

Cats weren’t mentioned even once.

Was this a massive oversight? A coup perpetrated by the Powerful Cat Lobby, perhaps?

Hardly. “Veterinarians spend a lot of time thinking about rabies, even though in this country, we hardly ever see it,” explained Murphy, a veterinarian. (Wasik, her husband, is a journalist.)

The scaremongerers over at the American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society must be downright distraught at the thought of the American public being better informed on the subject. Indeed, an excerpt from Rabid describes some of the underlying myths and cultural baggage these folks routinely attempt to leverage in their witch-hunt against free-roaming cats.

“As the lone visible instance of animal-to-human infection, rabies has always shaded into something more supernatural: into bestial metamorphoses, into monstrous hybridities. Even during the twentieth century, after Pasteur’s invention of a rabies vaccine provided a near-foolproof means of preventing its fatality in humans, our dark fascination with rabies seemed only to swell. The vaccine itself became as mythologized as the bug, such that even today many Americans believe that treatment requires some twenty (or is it thirty?) shots, delivered with a foot-long syringe into the stomach. (In fact, today’s vaccine entails four shots, and not particularly deep in the arm.)

It’s almost as if the very anachronism of rabies, to the Western mind, has rendered it even more intriguing to us. Like the vampire, rabies carries with it the musty whiff of a centuries-old terror—even as it still terrifies us in the present day.”

Not exactly your typical summertime reading, maybe, but this one’s going on my list. I wonder if I can get signed copies for ABC’s Darin Schroeder and TWS’s Michael Hutchins

Brevard County, Florida, Threatens Further Restrictions for TNR

For 50 years now, people have flocked to Brevard County, Florida—home of the Kennedy Space Center—to witness some of the most wildly ambitious endeavors ever imagined. It was a similar pioneering spirit that led the community to adopt TNR in 1999, well ahead of so many others.

Today, a year after the final Space Shuttle flight, the future of manned spaceflight remains very much an open question. Sadly, the future of TNR in Brevard County is also in doubt.

On June 9th, Florida Today reported that “the Brevard County Commission slapped a moratorium on new colonies in residential areas” during its May board meeting. Now, “officials are researching changes to existing rules.” [1] Read more

Arkansas Game and Fish Declines Offers of Assistance with Feral Cats

When I wrote recently about the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s decision to begin trapping cats at the Barnett Access on the Little Red River, I suggested that AGFC fisheries biologist Tom Bly had “been drinking TNR opponents’ Kool-Aid.”

Bingo!

That same day, I sent an e-mail to the AGFC director/deputy directors and commissioners asking for an explanation for the roundup. AGFC Director Loren Hitchcock responded promptly, forwarding my e-mail to Bly, who in turn wrote:

“My information came from the Spring 2011 issue of The Wildlife Professional. This is the magazine of the “The Wildlife Society” and includes peer reviewed and published articles on wildlife management and dealing with feral cat issues. The link to the publication is http://issuu.com/the-wildlife-professional/docs/feralcats.

As you will notice nearly one third of the publication is concerned with wildlife depredation by feral cats and public health related issues.”

Kool-Aid? Check. Read more