SPCA's 'saving lives' policy actually kills

Animal lovers should stop donating to the SPCA until it stops releasing homeless cats back into the environment, writes Gareth Morgan. 

Dominon Post readers may have heard of my recent campaign about the impact of cats on our native wildlife.

Two days ago it got a boost from a major new study published in Nature magazine.

It found that cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds a year in the United States, more than four times previous estimates, and that they are the top threat to US wildlife. However, the most damning part of this research was the finding that neutering homeless cats and releasing them into free-ranging colonies, as the SPCA does, does not work.

I am calling for people to stop donating to the SPCA until this policy is dropped.

Most people are surprised to learn that the SPCA no longer euthanases cats that they can't find a home for.

Instead of sending these homeless cats to their rightful place in the sky, they neuter them and put them back in the colony where they were found. To make matters worse, some of these colonies are then fed by well-meaning volunteers.

The PC nutters at the SPCA have justified this policy as "saving lives". The question is whose lives are the SPCA saving? Certainly not the lives of our native birds - the SPCA shows a callous disregard for our native fauna.

Even if their neutering approach was successful at controlling the population (which it isn't), these colonies of cats have devastating impacts for native birds. Euthanasia of free-ranging cats is way better for wildlife - neutered cats still kill birds, dead cats don't.

The proof is in the pudding; areas with euthanasia programmes in place for strays have more wildlife than those with "Trap Neuter Return" (TNR) programmes. It is hard to believe the SPCA is so anti New Zealand wildlife that it is sponsoring this direct assault on its existence. They are nothing more than a Society to Protect Cats.

SPCA have asked me for a donation for their operation.

This is laughable - it is crazy for any nature-loving Kiwi to give the SPCA money given this state of affairs. Instead I have offered to fund a bounty of $5 per free-ranging, homeless cat euthanased at an authorised facility.

The bounty would be payable to the SPCA but is conditional on the SPCA declaring it will not release one more cat into a free ranging, non-confined environment. That is the only way to bring homeless cat populations under control.

Don't worry, I am not after your companion moggie. Under the bounty regime, all cats turned in to authorised disposal facilities would first be tested for microchips to determine ownership. Owned cats would be returned to their place of residence, ideally with a fine for the owner (to encourage them to take responsibility for their cats).

I've been amazed at how many people are behind this idea: 40 per cent of people want to stop cats coming on to their property, and 80 per cent want the SPCA to stop releasing cats into free-range colonies.

The SPCA's theory is that by sterilising colonies of free-ranging cats, they will eventually reduce in size naturally. The truth is that these TNR programmes don't work: Populations in TNR colonies actually rise over time - they do not just disappear as the TNR advocates claim.

The reasons are hardly rocket science; it is virtually impossible to neuter a whole colony and, even if you managed to, abandoned cats join the colony, particularly if there is food around. You have to neuter 71 per cent to 94 per cent of the population for TNR to work - it only takes a few cats breeding prolifically to cause a population rise.

To make matters worse, TNR is twice as expensive as a trap and euthanasia approach. Even TNR performed with the help of cat-loving volunteers is still more expensive than trap and euthanasia performed with professional staff. Despite all these volunteers there is no way that all cat colonies can be managed sufficiently.

The irony of this so-called "saving lives" approach is that cats in these colonies lead miserable disease-and-accident-ridden lives, even if they are fed. In short, TNR is a pointless, expensive and mindless waste of the public's donations.

The SPCA justifies this policy on the basis that they only deal with "stray" cats and not with ferals.

This is simply hiding behind definitions - according to the SPCA any cat found near human habitation is a stray. In other words, cats that have never interacted with humans but live at a rubbish tip, or under a hedge in your yard are not feral, but stray.

These definitions are a smokescreen; if we are serious about protecting our native wildlife we need to be prepared to euthanase all free-ranging, homeless cats, and stop people abandoning companion cats.

The SPCA has blood on their hands, they are the leading sponsor of the destruction of our native wildlife. This organisation either needs to change course completely and advocate the elimination of all cats that aren't under strict control, or New Zealanders need to stop being duped by its misleading promotion and funding propaganda.

Domestic cats also need to be brought under control - registered, neutered and their owners held accountable. Nature-loving Kiwis should hold back their donations until TNR is dropped completely.

Gareth Morgan's Morgan Foundation is financing the Cats To Go campaign.

The Dominion Post