Just a quick update on how Bakersfield’s new, free TNR effort is going.
In a word: GREAT!
The Bakersfield Animal Care Center got a $60,000 PetSmart Charities grant earlier this year to fix 833 feral or community cats and it’s already more than halfway done after only four months.
TNR (trap, neuter, release) has been in place for many years at other shelters and was started back in July 2013 by the Kern County Animal Services Department almost on a wing and a prayer.
But the city lacked funding until PetSmart Charities stepped in.
“We’re invited to apply for the same grant again next year and we absolutely plan to,” said Shelter Director Julie Johnson.
She said the public has been very excited to take advantage of the program while it lasts.
If you’re unfamiliar with TNR, it’s an attempt to reduce and stabilize feral and/or community cat populations. Bakersfield's stray cat population is estimated to be about 120,000.
Feral cats are considered totally wild, are unhandleable and avoid humans. Community cats can be handled, and tend to cruise the neighborhood getting fed here and there.
Either way, once they start reproducing unowned cats can create a major problem in a hurry.
Factoring in survival rates, the numbers can go as high as 49,000 cats/kittens produced by just one unspayed female over a 10-year period, according to the website calculate-this.com.
So far, the city has fixed a little more than 600 cats using the PetSmart Charities grant.
Which means a whole mess of unwanted kittens will never be born.
Which, in time, will mean a lot fewer unwanted cats and kittens coming into shelters only to be euthanized.
“Shelters don’t want to be in the extermination business,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to save lives, not end them unless there’s a threat to public health and safety.”
To that end, she said, she’s seen a significant reduction in cat intakes from July 2016 of 460 to 263 this past July. In fact, this July's cat intake was the lowest in four years.
A single year-over-year monthly statistic may not be proof of a TNR effect, but Johnson was hopeful the trend would continue.
Especially considering the county has been fixing an average 1,200 cats per year through its free TNR program since its first full year in 2014.
Including half of 2013, when it started, the county has fixed more than 6,000 feral and community cats.
That has to start making a difference at some point.
“Over the years, we have seen a reduction in ferals coming in and it’s been consistent,” said Kern County Shelter Director Nick Cullen.
It stands to reason that any large-scale, ongoing spay/neuter program will have an effect as long as people use it consistently for their animals.
So, good for the city and county.
Now, to those people — and you know who you are — who write me nasty grams about how releasing cats back into the community is an affront against wildlife, save it.
Yes, cats kill birds and lizards and bugs.
They also keep the rodent population in check, which is mighty helpful in tamping down pesky little things like bubonic plague and hantavirus.
And I don’t know how it escapes the anti-TNR crowd, but TNR reduces the cat population. REPEAT: Fewer cats.
Fewer cats means more birdies and lizards.
I’m not sure what the anti-TNR people want — for us to round up and kill every stray cat in the county? Build a giant indoor cat-o-rama to hold them all?
Anyhoo, since I live in the real world, I like reasonable, doable solutions.
And TNR is exactly that.