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Wed., March 20, at noon, bill will be considered that would legitimize TNR in FL

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  • Sandy Beck
    Every year Florida wildlife rehabilitators care for thousands of native birds and animals that have been mauled by outdoor cats. And these are just the few
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 19, 2013
      Every year Florida wildlife rehabilitators care for thousands of native birds and animals that have been mauled by outdoor cats. And these are just the few that people find and take to us. Recently, after a strong and well-researched appeal by concerned citizen groups, including Audubon, and the Health Department, Leon County commissioners voted to NOT legitimize TNR (Trap, Neuter and Release of feral cats) in its current form — despite concerted appeal by TNR groups. For both the sake of wildlife and domestic cats, the only acceptable outdoor "feral cat colony" should be one that is totally enclosed by fencing on all sides and above. Such an enclosure would prevent neutered cats from leaving and unneutered cats and wildlife from entering. The cats must also receive humane care — regular veterinary care, food, clean water and shelter. As it stands in Leon County, it is still unlawful to feed and encourage feral cats, which TNR groups refer to as "community cats" — as if they were a community asset.

      However, now the issue has gone from the local to statewide arena.

      On Wednesday, March 20, at noon, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will consider HB 1121 by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Marathon), a bill which would make it easier to establish feral cat colonies in Florida communities, with dire implications for wildlife, public health, and private property rights. Please consider emailing the committee members, urging them to oppose this legislation.

      This bill seeks to better establish TNR — the practice statewide of sterilizing and vaccinating feral cats, and returning them to hard, tragic lives on the streets. While proponents assert this practice ultimately eliminates feral cat populations, peer-reviewed scientific research and case studies have not borne this out. Instead, feral cat colonies often persist and grow with dire consequences.

      Harm to Wildlife and Wildlands:
      It is estimated that free-ranging cats kill 1.4-3.7B birds in the US each year, as well as 6.9-20.7B small mammals and more than 400M reptiles and amphibians. They are a substantial threat to rare and endangered species in Florida like Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit, Key Largo Woodrat and beach-nesting birds like Black Skimmers and Snowy Plovers. Further, they can be a threat to ground-nesting game birds like Northern Bobwhite. Recently, several Florida panthers have also contracted feline leukemia from free-roaming cats. When colonies are established in or adjacent to public lands, properties which should be refuges for wildlife instead become hazards.

      Threat to Public Health:
      Several county public health departments have adopted policies opposing trap-neuter-release feral cat colonies on public health grounds, and the Florida Department of Health calls Trap-Neuter-Release colonies "not tenable on public health grounds because of the persistent threat posed to communities from injury and disease." While cats may initially be vaccinated, their shots are not updated after their initial vaccination. Human rabies was stamped out in Florida in the 1900's by getting our free-roaming dog population under control. Now feral cats are a vector for rabies and other illnesses.

      Harm to Private Property:
      Unless cats are confined to the property where they are fed, they stray onto adjacent properties with substantial impacts. Many private property owners adjacent to colonies report problems with cats overrunning their yards, using their gardens for litter boxes, fighting at night, scratching their vehicles, threatening their own pets, and potentially affecting their property values.

      Cat overpopulation is certainly tragic. But we should not answer one tragedy by perpetuating another. HB 1121 would further legitimize the practice of trap-neuter-release in Florida, making it harder to protect wildlife, public health and private property rights.

      Please click here to use our easy email form to contact legislators. Urge them to oppose HB 1121 and relay your personal concerns about more widespread establishment of feral cat colonies in Florida.

      These are the members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that will consider HB 1121 tomorrow. Please write or call them and let them know how you feel.

      Bill text:
      http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?

      House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee members:

      Matt.caldwell@...
      Tom.goodson@...
      Kevin.rader@...
      Halsey.beshears@...
      Jim.boyd@...
      Katie.edwards@...
      Larry.lee@...
      Cary.pigman@...
      Ray.pilon@...
      Elizabeth.porter@...
      Betty.reed@...
      pat.rooney@...
      Clovis.watson@...

      Bill text: http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h1121__.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=1121&Session=2013
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