Thursday, January 7, 2010
Beginning February 1, 2010, Animal Humane Society will no longer accept or provide services for feral cats seized under municipal authority. Animals seized under municipal authority are those taken in by local law enforcement or local animal control and brought to AHS.
AHS has always and will continue to accept companion stray cats. Please read the information below regarding AHS's feral cat policy to gain a better understanding of the difference between feral cats and stray cats.
AHS has faced criticism from a small animal welfare organization in Hastings, Minn. that was dissatisfied with AHS’s practices regarding feral cats. It was their belief that AHS was not operating within Minnesota’s animal welfare statutes regarding feral cats and how long they are held at AHS.
AHS sought advice from its legal counsel at Gray Plant Mooty and maintains that it is operating within the bounds of state law and in the best interest of the animals. “We have attempted to work in good faith with the Hastings organization,” said Janelle Dixon, CEO/President of AHS. “We listened to the organization’s concerns and attempted to come up with a plan that would use different methods while also being consistent with the philosophy and practices of AHS. Unfortunately, our attempts were met with a continued unwillingness to compromise.” AHS also offered to release feral cats to the Hastings organization’s feral cat program, but the organization rejected the opportunity to take them.
The Hastings organization has threatened litigation if AHS does not change its feral cat policy. The organization has also threatened suit against AHS’s municipal partners should they continue to work with AHS.
In addition, the Hastings organization is communicating inaccurate and false information about AHS. This is one in a long list of its attempts to discredit the good name and reputation of AHS.
It is not in the interest of AHS, the municipalities and most importantly the animals to endure a lengthy and costly legal battle. “This type of action would take very limited resources away from the animals served by AHS and redirect our staff from the day-to-day business of helping animals,” said Dixon. “AHS has a history of working in partnership with other animal welfare organizations on issues that impact animals and is, in fact, a founding member of the Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare. It is unfortunate that the Hastings organization is unwilling to work amicably with us to do what is best for the animals.”
Upon request, AHS has provided feral cat resource information to the municipalities.
Information regarding AHS’s feral cat policy
How does AHS currently handle cats that are received?
When a cat is brought to AHS it is evaluated to determine if it is an owned, stray or a feral cat. All animals that arrive at AHS are scanned for a microchip.
Stray cats have lived with individuals and families but have become lost and separated from their owners. The goal of AHS is to reunite them with their owners and, if that doesn’t happen, find new, loving homes for them. All stray animals are held for five days and posted to the AHS Online Lost & Found Online Bulletin Board on the day of their arrival.
Feral cats are different—they have lived in the wild with no shelter and have not known human contact. They are fearful, unsocialized and incapable of living in a home environment.
AHS believes that keeping feral cats in captivity causes immense suffering that will not subside with time—even with care, food and shelter. They are not placeable as pets or prospects for adoption.
AHS takes in more than 21,000 cats each year at its five facilities. This past year, 592 of those cats were feral.
What is the law?
Minnesota’s animal welfare statutes pertain to the holding period of stray cats at municipal facilities. The law states that a municipality must hold a stray cat for a five-day holding period. Although AHS is a private organization, it also adheres to this five-day holding period for all stray animals.
AHS believes that to kennel a feral cat for five days is cruel and inhumane. Minnesota state law mandates that when a veterinarian makes a determination that a seized animal is suffering and beyond cure through reasonable care and treatment, that animal may be humanely euthanized to end its suffering. [Minnesota statutes § 343.29, subd. 2 (seizure of neglected animals) and Minnesota statutes § 343.22, subd. 3 (seizure of animals in cruelty investigation)]. Unfortunately, this is often the case with feral cats. When such a determination has been made regarding a feral cat, AHS will euthanize the animal promptly to end its suffering, consistent with the requirements of Minnesota’s animal welfare statutes.
AHS’s focus remains on companion animals and continuing to operate in the best interests of those in its care. They achieve this by being an open-admission facility, working with a number of other animal welfare organizations to rehome and rehabilitate pets and ensuring each animal adopted from its facilities is sterilized.
Last year nearly 16,000 animals received sterilization surgeries—either at AHS facilities prior to adoption or through AHS’s mobile services unit.
With the public’s help AHS is able to find homes for thousands of cats each year, but the reality is there are not enough homes in the community.
Spay/neuter remains a priority for AHS, along with implementing a low-cost sterilization program. It is the critical solution to pet overpopulation and to reducing the number of cats surrendered to its five facilities each year.