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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Mattfield

Whiskers Official Statement on NY Times Flatbush Cats Article

Thank you to all of our supporters who have been tagging us in the latest article from the New York Times, a piece by Richard Schiffman entitled "How to Clear 500,000 Feral Cats From New York’s Streets."

Besides admiring Erin Schaff's striking photos of eartipped cats, we find ourselves nodding in agreement with some of Will Zweigart's and Debbie Gabriel's points, finding them very applicable to our New Jersey situation as well:

  • "New York City — along with the rest of the country — faces a severe shortage of veterinarians, many of whom were overwhelmed and burned out by the high demand for their services, and veterinary fees have outpaced the average rate of inflation for the past 20 years."

  • "Some people, fearing that their unwanted cats would be euthanized if they were taken to a shelter, simply let them out on the streets and hoped for the best."

  • "There are way too many cats outdoors, he said, and too few people willing to offer the friendly ones a place to live. 'We cannot adopt our way out of this problem. That’s a Band-Aid at best.'"

  • "In theory, T.N.R. should gradually deplete and eventually eliminate the city’s cat colonies."

We definitely have experienced some of the difficulties mentioned by the article, such as feeders refusing to even allow trapping on their property. We also understand that with vet shortages and other circumstances, there is strong need for subsidized spay/neuter and assistance with equipment and trap training.

However, the article does not address the lack of city involvement regarding enforcement of a simple and relatively recent statute.

NYC Administrative Code Section 17-804 had the following item added by Local Law 59 in 2011:

"d. Every owner of a cat who permits such cat to roam outside the interior of the owner's dwelling shall have such cat sterilized. At the request of employees or authorized agents of the department, owners shall provide proof satisfactory to the department that a cat found roaming has been sterilized. The Department shall not seize a cat solely on the ground that the cat has not been sterilized."

While this is a very weak statute that does not establish ownership, the article focused on individuals and groups who freely claimed ownership of the outdoor cats they were feeding, as well as those who refused to allow or do TNR to control their own colonies.

It appears that just like the Garden State, New York City has a lack of enforcement of even the weakest spay/neuter requirements.

When feeders refused to fix their decades-old multi-generational colony and even rejected Bushwick Cats' generous offer to have volunteers do their work, they refused, saying that the cats were "theirs" and provided rodent control, refusing even basic medical care like sterilization and vaccines.

Where was Animal Control to back up Bushwick Cats when they were witnessing refusal to provide medical care and noncompliance with city law?

We support any effort to effectively increase accessibility to affordable spay/neuter and the use of TNR to control and eliminate feral cat populations. However, for TNR to be effective, it needs to be required of every feeder and enforced consistently. Until animal control and policymaking are on board, we simply cannot solve this problem.


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