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Politics & Government

Legislation to control feral cat population questioned

Delaware Public Media

Earlier this month, state legislators introduced a bill to control Delaware’s feral cat population.

The bill proposes creating a community cat program that would allow some people to care for free-roaming cats without having to become an owner.  The program is based on the trap-neuter-release method, in which qualified members of the public can shelter, provide medical attention and release the cats without repercussions. The program is thought to be a remedy to the public health problems and other issues posed by feral cats, which in the wild reproduce rapidly and can spread diseases, like rabies, when roaming unvaccinated.  

American Birding Association president Jeff Gordon says there’s not enough evidence that the trap-neuter-release method actually reduces feral cat populations.

“I will guarantee you that if it could be shown that trap-neuter-release was actually effective as it's purported to be in this bill at reducing feral cat colonies, the birding and conservation community would support it," Gordon. "Unfortunately, that hasn’t been shown to our satisfaction.”

Research has shown the most effective method is to trap them and house them permanently.

“The ideal would be to get them in good homes where they’re indoors and well accounted for," said Gordon. "Unfortunately, everyone knows that it’s not a realistic scenario.”

Cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds each year in the U.S. and a large majority of these deaths are caused by feral cats, as opposed to housecats, according to a 2013 study conducted by the Smithsonian Institute.

The bill has been released from a House committee.  Tuesday is lawmakers' final day of work for the year.