Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: Not as simple as ‘trap, neuter, adopt’

by Stephanie Faulkiner

As a member of the Monongalia County Animal Welfare Network (MCAWN), I am responding to the guest essay written by the Animal Care and Control Issues Manager for PETA (DP-11-11-23). MCAWN would like to clarify why trap, neuter adopt is not a realistic solution to the very much “man-made” feline overpopulation problem in Monongalia County, as well as every other county in West Virginia.

Out initial reaction was disappointment. Why would a fellow activist attack local boots-on-the-ground rescuers from their office in another state while failing to even comment on how reprehensible the actual mass killing of owned and community cats was?

Feral cats do not exist because of rescuers. Feral cats exist because of irresponsible pet owners and non-existent animal welfare laws. Many pet owners do not feel the need to fix their cats because they are indoor pets, until they get out.

Female cats can produce up to three litters a year. These litters average four to six kittens. Female kittens can become pregnant within four months. One unaltered female cat has the potential to add another 500-plus cats per year to the population.

Many people read statistics like this and say things like, “This is why I fix the females,” but male cats can reproduce with multiple females indiscriminately, so it is imperative that all cats be fixed when they are the appropriate age. In addition to population control, it also makes them less likely to develop life threatening diseases like pyometra and testicular cancer.

As rescuers, we do not adopt cats out to people who plan to let them roam outdoors. As humans, we understand that if someone has abandoned their cat outdoors and we are unable to take it in ourselves that it is imperative to alter and vet that cat to give it the best chance possible at survival.

The original letter stated that rescuers do nothing to protect community cats from dangers they face by living outdoors. While it is true that we are not able to protect them from predators (human and animal), cars and illness, our proactive spay/neuter programs do reduce colony sizes. Many community cat caregivers provide shelters with straw, medication when available and, when resources are available, the more friendly cats are placed into foster homes to be socialized so that they can be adopted. We are all too aware of the plight of outdoor cats, and we are doing the absolute best that we can for them.

Many animal protection bills have been submitted to the West Virginia Legislature. They are always shot down or picked apart to the point that they remove protections that are already in place. One would think that an organization with resources such as PETA may be more inclined to help lobby for our homeless animals instead of attacking those who are trying to improve their welfare and prevent more of them from being born into suffering.

In 2022, PETA’s Virginia shelter received 1,740 cats, 1,728 of which were owner surrendered. 1,374 of those cats were euthanized, and only 15 were adopted. The remainder were transferred to other shelters. Why does PETA think that community cat caregivers can adopt out completely unsocialized cats when it can’t even rehome socialized owner surrenders? Our organization is open to workable suggestions, as well as any resources that could effectively help combat the problem at hand, but we certainly don’t need a lecture.

Stephanie Faulkiner is a member of the Monongalia County Animal Welfare Network and the Marketing Outreach Coordinator for Spay Neuter Incentive Program of West Virginia (SNIP WV), a high yield, low-cost clinic located in Morgantown.