In My View
On August 29, Linda Sowdal at San Antonio’s Feral Cat Coalition alerted us to a sudden and secret move by San Antonio’s City Council. The group was about to vote on changes to the city’s animal laws — changes that would result in the killing of lots of outside cats, including ones who had been sterilized, vaccinated and already cared for in managed colonies by feral cat advocates.
Through a scheme to declare any outdoor cat a “nuisance” the council sought to authorize the trapping -- without questions asked -- and depositing of cats at the city’s pound known as Animal Care Services. If no owner claimed a cat or the cat was feral, it would have meant a death sentence.
As explained by Marie Ansari, a Friends of Animals’ member and a feral cat caregiver in New Jersey, the backward momentum inherent in defining cats and other animals as nuisances leads to the death of so many cats as well as squirrels, opossums and others who are also trapped, moved or killed.
Two days later, the cats won in San Antonio. Primarily Primates Executive Director Stephen Rene Tello brought a carful of sanctuary employees and volunteers to join the Feral Cat Coalition’s spirited rally outside City Hall. Thirty minutes into the rally, the Council reversed itself, cancelling their vote for the September 1st meeting.
Change is coming
In 2007, former Mayor Phil Hardberger announced a no-kill goal for San Antonio in 2012, after learning that Animal Care Services’ killing rates were among the highest in the nation. Animal Care Services was far from living up to its name. Its systematic killing peaked at about 70,000 animal deaths per year.
Nathan Winograd, the country’s leading advocate for the no-kill movement, spoke in San Antonio about how to begin to save cats’ and dogs’ lives by implementing a fundamental shift in policy, key programs and services. Proactive strategies for adoptions and breeding control would be essential.
While the city of San Antonio wasn’t organized well enough to implement a vigorous, bilingual effort to oppose our culture’s idea that animals are disposable, Cheryl Schneider, the animal services director in Williamson County, Texas, heeded Winograd’s message and put the no-kill plan in motion there. Today, Williamson County’s animal shelter has a 94% save rate.
In 2008, Friends of Animals, through our well-known certificate program, offered $50,000 to the Feral Cat Coalition to spay and neuter feral cats in San Antonio through the Animal Resource Center. We made other awards in following years along with one-time assistance for dogs in low-income areas.
San Antonio ’s City Council also stepped up, moving funds from their nefarious “catch and kill” program to support free and low-cost sterilization services. Friends of Animals met with Animal Care Services, knowing it’s essential to have municipal government integrated and invested in work that’s achievable. We emphasized trap-neuter-return as the one method of effectively reducing cat populations, and one that takes an ethical view of abandoned and feral cats. If 6,000 feral cats were entering Animal Care Services each year, and all perished, then reversing that process and preventing births is undoubtedly a critical project.
“No-kill starts as an act of will,” says Winograd.
By the close of 2010, according to Animal People editor Merritt Clifton, San Antonio’s kill rate fell to 18,545. Some progress is evident – but the city is still a far cry from the no-kill goal. Several key shelter strategies have yet to be implemented. Progress was impeded by a few non-profit partners who failed to offer homeless animals a new beginning.
But for now, at least the homeless cats being assisted by caregivers have their reprieve.
In 2012, Friends of Animals will continue our efforts to have San Antonio’s government invested in ending the killing of cats and dogs. We’ll sponsor speaking engagements for Nathan Winograd in both San Antonio and New York City before diverse audiences of rescue groups, shelter workers, city employees and animal advocates.
We’ll also double our grants to spay and neuter animals, and join the determination and know-how of local caregivers with a 55-year track record, so that animals’ lives are saved and valued.
When you consider renewing membership in Friends of Animals, please know we’ll respect your earnings. No more than 8% is spent on administrative and fundraising expenses. This is an impressive achievement by any non-profit’s standards. (And this is why we rely so much on our members’ word-of-mouth endorsements and support.)
Ninety-two percent of the monies you donate support program services. What does that mean? The actual running of the spay-neuter certificate network, as well as direct interventions for wolves, horses, deer and other animals; marine animal rescue; vegan advocacy; public education and outreach; and direct caregiving expenses for our sanctuaries in the United States and Africa.
Every day I thank you, our members, for making it possible.