TWS chapter opposes feral cat amendment

By Lauren McDonald

©Chriss Haight Pagani

The Illinois Chapter of The Wildlife Society submitted a letter to the state’s General Assembly, opposing language in a bill that would enable and facilitate the release of feral cats back into the ecosystem.

H.B. 4671, an amendment to the Illinois Animal Welfare Act, legitimizes the trap-neuter-release (TNR) program – an effort to reduce feral cat populations through sterilization – by allocating funds from pet owner registration fees to TNR programs.

TNR is considered a humane solution for the reduction of free-roaming feral cat populations; however, TWS believes that returning sterilized cats back into the ecosystem does not negate the harm that they impose upon native wildlife. Feral cats can serve as a source of zoonotic diseases, and their independent instinct to hunt regardless of hunger has contributed to the decline and even extinction of numerous small mammal, reptile and bird species.

“As wildlife professionals, many of us have seen firsthand the adverse impact that feral cats have on wildlife populations,” said Illinois Chapter President Scott Meister. “We do not support programs that facilitate destruction of a natural resource that we hold so dear.”

TWS’ parent society released a position statement on feral and free-ranging domestic cats in 2011 that supports the position taken in the Illinois Chapter’s letter.

Meister says that “we feel a responsibility to all TWS members to take local action on an issue that our parent society has a position against.” He further describes that “it is important to relay to local legislators that the issue of feral cats’ interaction with wildlife is a serious issue and the views expressed by us — the local chapter — is reflected by wildlife professionals internationally.”

For more information about the impacts of feral and free-ranging domestic cats, see TWS’ factsheet.

Lauren McDonald is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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