Docs’ Docs

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently made available online (via downloadable PDFs) several of its articles related to free-roaming cats/TNR. Although abstracts have been online for some time, access to the full text for these papers has generally required either a subscription to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association or access to a subscribing library.

Among the articles that make up this edition of AVMA Collections are several I’ve referred to over the past few months—including two I’ve been quite critical of: one by Linda Winter, former director of the American Bird Conservancy’s Cats Indoors! campaign, and another by David Jessup.

The AVMA and Free-roaming Cats
Although “the AVMA encourages and supports actions to eliminate the problem of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats,” its policy regarding Free-roaming Abandoned and Feral Cats is, it must be said, ambivalent at best. The organization “neither endorses nor opposes appropriately managed cat colony programs,” for example. When it comes to the “treatment” of cats not in managed colonies, however, the AVMA is quite clear—as is the likely fate of these cats (despite the policy’s euphemistic language):

“The AVMA strongly supports reducing the number of unowned free-roaming abandoned and feral cats through humane capture (with placement in homes where appropriate) by local health departments, humane societies, and animal control agencies. All free-roaming abandoned and feral cats that are not in managed colonies should be removed from their environment and treated in the same manner as other abandoned and stray animals in accord with local and state ordinances.”

Another worrisome aspect of the AVMA’s policy is its matter-of-fact assertion that “these free-roaming abandoned and feral cats also represent a significant factor in the mortality of hundreds of millions of birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish” (the wording of which matches almost exactly a claim made by the American Bird Conservancy).

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As with all large, politically-minded organizations, policy change at the AVMA is likely to be a slow process. Perhaps, though, by making this collection of articles available to the general public, they have, knowingly or not, given that process a nudge. Regardless of its intent—which seems to consider only a veterinary professional readership—the AVMA’s move may help foster a better-informed, more engaged debate among those outside the profession.