Audubon Editor Suspended “Pending Further Review”

It’s been a turbulent few days for Ted Williams. First, the editors at the Orlando Sentinel—who, it seems clear, were previously asleep at the switch—revised his op-ed, pulling the comment about Tylenol and changing his affiliation from “editor-at-large for Audubon magazine” to “independent column[ist] for Audubon magazine.” They also added a disclaimer: “His views do not necessarily reflect those of the National Audubon Society.”

As of Saturday morning, Williams was more independent than ever.

That’s when the National Audubon Society announced via Facebook that the organization “suspended its contract with Mr. Williams and will remove him as ‘Editor at Large’ from the masthead pending further review.” This comes in the wake of his inflammatory op-ed in Thursday’s Orlando Sentinel in which Williams suggested that acetaminophen poisoning was one of “two effective, humane alternatives to the cat hell of TNR.”

And although Williams will likely blame his dismissal (assuming Audubon won’t just wait until the smoke clears and then quietly bring him back on board) on the “feral-cat mafia,” as he describes us in one of his online comments to the story, the fact is he’s got nobody to blame but himself. Read more

Audubon Editor Suggests Poisoning Feral Cats

Armed with the recently published “killer cat study” from the Smithsonian Biological Conservation Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, TNR opponents are calling for increasingly extreme measures.

Travis Longcore was among the first, telling KCET reporter Judy Muller that “managing and controlling unowned, free-roaming cats will require euthanasia. There are not enough shelter spaces, there is not enough sanctuary space. And we have to stand up and be honest. But the thing is something is going to die in this equation.” Witch-hunt pioneer Stanley Temple chimed in a few days later with an op-ed piece in the Orlando Sentinel in which he referred to the work of Scott Loss, Tom Will, and Peter Marra as “a new study [that] for the first time provides a science-based estimate of the number of birds and mammals killed by cats nationwide.”

A week-and-a-half later came another op-ed, this one in the Baltimore Sun and penned by American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick, who, like Temple, endorsed the Smithsonian/USFWS paper as valid science rather than the PR scam it truly is. “Local governments need to act swiftly and decisively to gather the 30 million to 80 million unowned cats,” argued Fenwick, “aggressively seek adoptions, and establish sanctuaries for or euthanize those cats that are not adoptable.”

All of which pales in comparison to the rhetoric unleashed by Audubon magazine’s editor-at-large, Ted Williams, in his own op-ed, published in today’s Orlando Sentinel. Read more

The American Bird Conservancy’s Campaign of Killing

“The only sure way to protect wildlife, cats and people is for domestic cats to be permanently removed from the outdoor environment,” argues American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick in a Baltimore Sun op-ed published earlier this week.

“Trap-neuter-release programs that perpetuate the slaughter of wildlife and encourage the dumping of unwanted cats is [sic] a failed strategy being implemented across the United States without any consideration for environmental, human health, or animal welfare effects. It can no longer be tolerated.”

“Evidence” of the slaughter, Fenwick suggests, can be found “in a long line of scientific studies”—among them the Smithsonian/USFWS “killer cat study,” Rick Gerhold and David Jessup’s “Zoonotic Diseases” paper, Peter Marra’s gray catbird study, and Kerry Anne Loyd’s “KittyCam” research. The trouble, of course, is with the quality of Fenwick’s evidence—or in the case of Loyd’s work, how badly it’s been misrepresented by Fenwick and ABC.

But let’s face it: a witch-hunt is a much easier sell when you can put some “science” behind it. And, although too few Sun readers probably realize it, that’s exactly what Fenwick’s up to: Read more

Stanley Temple Endorses Smithsonian/USFWS Paper

It came as some surprise, a couple weeks ago, to learn that Stanley Temple was a guest on WHYY’s Radio Times, discussing the Smithsonian’s “killer cat study.” (Full disclosure: I’ve yet to listen to the episode.) Temple was, as I’m sure most readers know, the man behind the infamous Wisconsin Study (from which, not surprisingly, Scott Loss, Tom Will, and Peter Marra borrow for their own “estimate”), so his position on the issue is no surprise.

What surprised me (as I’ll explain below) was that he wanted to weigh in publicly.

And then, a week-and-a-half later, Temple was doing it again, with an opinion piece in Friday’s Orlando Sentinel (where, on that same day, Alley Cat Allies co-founder and president Becky Robinson, called the Smithsonian/USFWS paper “wildly speculative” in an op-ed of her own). Read more

Garbage In, Garbage Out

By now—just about 72 hours after the story broke—it’s probably more difficult to find people who haven’t heard about the Smithsonian study claiming “that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually” [1] than it is to find people who’ve heard the news somewhere—the New York Times, the BBC, NPR’s All Things Considered, or any number of other media outlets.

Very few scientific papers receive the kind of press coverage that’s been given “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States,” published in the online journal Nature Communications. Then again, very few studies make the kinds of claims made by the paper’s authors—claims the media has accepted without the slightest bit of scrutiny. Which is, unfortunately, to be expected.

And, I suspect, exactly what these researchers intended. Though they describe their work as a “data-driven systematic review,” [1] it’s difficult not to see it as part of a concerted effort to undermine TNR. Read more

Feline Shelter Intake Reduction Program FAQs

The timing was perfect—almost.

Not 10 minutes after I published yesterday’s post, I noticed a link posted by my friends at Stray Cat Alliance on the organization’s Facebook page. Beside the link was this not-so-subtle endorsement:

“THIS IS A MUST READ!!!!!”

As I say, not so subtle. On the other hand, I couldn’t agree more. Read more

Indian Harbour Beach Bans Feeding and Care of Feral Cats

Late Tuesday I received word that Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, went through with its proposed ordinance, thereby making it illegal: “for any person to possess, harbor, feed, breed, maintain or keep any feral animals on any public or private property located within the corporate boundaries of the City of Indian Harbour Beach.”

The approved ordinance* reads, in part: Read more

Opinions from the Front Lines, or Fog of War?

A recent study finds important differences between cat caretakers and bird conservationists when it comes to their attitudes and beliefs about the impacts of free-roaming cats and how to best manage them. In the end, however, the methods employed lead to far more questions than answers.

“Because western society’s orientations toward wildlife is becoming more moralistic and less utilitarian,” explain the authors of a study recently published online in PLoS ONE, “conservation biologists must develop innovative and collaborative ways to address the threats posed by feral cats rather than assuming wholesale removal of feral cats through euthanasia is a universally viable solution.” [1] Not surprisingly, the authors fail to acknowledge that “euthanasia” hasn’t proven to be a viable [see Note 1] solution anywhere but on small oceanic islands. Still, given the sort of recommendations typically generated by the conservation biology community on this subject, I suppose we have to recognize this as some kind of progress. Read more

The Outdoor Cat Conference: Wrap-Up

Putting on any conference is a tremendous undertaking. But the challenges involved in pulling together The Outdoor Cat: Science and Policy from a Global Perspective went far beyond the logistics of wrangling 20-some speakers and 150 or so attendees. For starters, there was deciding who should (and should not) be invited to present. (More on that shortly.) And then there’s the fact that, no matter what happens, you’re bound to be criticized.

There’s simply no way to get something like this completely right, no matter who’s in charge or how much planning goes into it.

And so, I give a lot of credit to the people involved—who knew all of this, and did it anyhow. Those I know of (and I’m sure to be leaving out many others, for which I apologize) include John Hadidian, Andrew Rowan, Nancy Peterson, Katie Lisnik, and Carol England from the Humane Society of the United States; and Aimee Gilbreath and Estelle Weber of FoundAnimals. Many of you told me, very modestly, that this conference was “a start.”

Fair enough, but it’s a very important one. Five or 10 years from now, we might look back and call it a milestone.

Here, then, are some snapshots of the various presentations (in the order in which the they were given). Read more

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

Veterinarians Oppose TNR in Polk County, FL

When officials in Polk County, Florida, contributed nearly $50,000 to SPCA Florida’s TNR program, they probably expected to take some heat. But maybe not from some of their local veterinarians. According to a story in Friday’s edition of The Ledger though, the “controversial stray cat program is drawing complaints from local veterinarians who question its effectiveness and the use of taxpayer dollars.” [1]

Sounds like some Polk County vets have been talking to their colleagues in neighboring Hillsborough County, where members of the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation have launched a substantial anti-TNR campaign—apparently as a way to stifle competition from low-cost clinics. 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