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Figuring Out How to Address Growing Feral Cat Population


While cat- and dog-lovers sometimes have contentious debates over which beloved animal is smarter, more adoring, and the overall better pet, a much more serious debate is taking place in Richmond about the two.  And that is—when it comes to feral and stray cats, why aren't they afforded the same rights as dogs? 

At issue is how to HUMANELY address the booming feral cat population, while potentially safeguarding cats in the same way as dogs. Advocates say people are killing cats they think are nuisances in gruesome ways, and no uniform state rules govern how localities should reduce or maintain cat populations.

A state commission with gaming officials, animal-rights advocates, veterinarians, and others has been trying to reach a compromise. And one VERY controversial issue is the practice of trapping, neutering, and releasing cats. Grant Sizemore, with the American Bird Conservancy, argues that "TNR" doesn't really work. He says a recent study suggests that the cats cause a much larger problem.

“Free-roaming cats result in the mortality or the direct deaths of about 2.4 billion birds every year – just in the continental United States – and about 12.3 billion small mammals.”

But commission chair Dr. Dan Kovich says the members are considering sterilization AND cat management programs—and while TNR is a major component, they’re also weighing developing new tools, with euthanasia the least desired option.

Tommie McNeil is a State Capitol reporter who has been covering Virginia and Virginia politics for more than a decade. He originally hails from Maryland, and also doubles as the evening anchor for 1140 WRVA in Richmond.