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Apocalypse Meow
Comments () | Published April 3, 2012

By 2008, Dauphiné again expanded her footprint by trapping on privately owned land without permission, according to the Humane Society. Porter says the Humane Society reported this violation of Athens law to the animal-control department, but nothing ever came of the complaints.

The shelter couldn't find homes for all of the cats Dauphiné brought in and had to euthanize most of them. Seeing so many cats put down demoralized the staff, Porter says: "We became a facility that euthanizes cats, not a Humane Society."

Dauphiné became an expert on cat predation. She attended conferences, met the field's leading scientists, and published literature. She was an outspoken critic of an approach to feral-cat management known as "trap-neuter-return," or TNR.

Feral cats live in groups called colonies, which tend to collect around food sources, such as a dumpster outside a fast-food restaurant or the home of someone who leaves food out each night. In a TNR colony, each feral cat is trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be sterilized and vaccinated. Afterward, adult ferals are returned to their original colonies and fed regularly by volunteers. Kittens--which can be socialized--are put up for adoption.

Even feral-cat advocates acknowledge the need to reduce the number of cats living outdoors. TNR is designed to accomplish this through attrition, which proponents argue is more humane than euthanasia.

Neutering can decrease the nuisances--such as catfighting--that often accompany feral colonies. And there's anecdotal evidence that the TNR approach can sharply reduce feral-cat populations. A colony in Newburyport, Massachusetts, that started with more than 300 feral cats in 1992 saw its last cat pass away in 2009. But scientific research suggests that population stabilization--as opposed to elimination--is often the best-case scenario with TNR.

Alley Cat Allies cites a study of 103 colonies in Rome as evidence that TNR is effective at reducing cat populations. The study found that from 1991 to 2000 the total number of cats across all the colonies declined by 22 percent.

Yet the study's authors themselves found the results less than convincing. Only 55 of the colonies got smaller, while the rest either grew or remained stable. (Populations can expand when caregivers are unable to trap and sterilize every cat in a colony or when pet owners dump unwanted cats there.) TNR "is having some success albeit, not consistently seen in every colony," the researchers wrote. "On the whole, we had hoped for a more-important decrease in the numbers of feral urban cats."

Conservationists argue that by feeding feral cats, well-meaning people disrupt the balance of nature.

"We save the life of one cat, and it kills 200 birds during its lifetime," says Michael Hutchins, executive director of the Wildlife Society. "Did those birds suffer? Darn right they did. Did they lose their lives? Darn right they did." Outdoor cats can also be vectors of rabies and other human-health risks, Hutchins says. And even a well-managed TNR colony can attract rats, skunks, and raccoons.

In 2009, Dauphiné gave a presentation at the University of Georgia titled "Apocalypse Meow!: Free-Ranging Cats and the Destruction of American Wildlife." She told the audience that "euthanasia has been recognized as a superior method of control. And this is what we do for dogs; it's accepted society-wide."

Eric Jenkins's cat had been gone for a couple of hours before he noticed. Cosmos, a long-haired black Tiffany, was an indoor/outdoor cat with a collar. Jenkins, a University of Georgia doctoral student, looked for his cat in the woods surrounding his apartment, where he found several cat traps baited with cat food, but no Cosmos. Although they were unmarked, Jenkins assumed the traps belonged to one of the local animal-welfare groups. Thinking Cosmos might have been scooped up by mistake, he attached notes to some of the cages with his phone number and a picture of Cosmos. Then Jenkins and his wife went out to dinner.

When they returned an hour later, the traps were gone and Cosmos was still missing. Jenkins called the animal-welfare organizations, but they all said they hadn't been trapping in the area. It was April 2008, about a year after NFL star Michael Vick drew national attention to dogfighting. Jenkins and his wife feared Cosmos had become chum for savage dogs.

Jenkins called the Athens Area Humane Society. "Well, there is this crazy lady that has been going around and setting traps for years," he was told.

The Humane Society wouldn't give Jenkins the trapper's name, but they said she operated near the Walmart and a movie theater. Jenkins and his wife began staking out the Walmart parking lot each evening while Angela Burton--a feral-cat advocate who had offered to help--took the movie theater.

Several days later, Jenkins's wife, Allison Dunn, spotted a station wagon with bird stickers driving away from the Walmart. They gave the description to Burton and told her the car might belong to the trapper. About a week later, Burton saw the same station wagon in the Humane Society's parking lot. The driver was unloading trapped cats, two of which were wearing collars. Only later did Burton learn the driver's name: Nico Dauphiné.

"You know that some of these cats must be pets?" Burton said to her.

"It doesn't matter--people should keep their pets indoors," Dauphiné said. "They are a menace to wildlife--they kill small mammals and nesting birds."

The two got into a heated argument. "It was like she was a robot, repeating these studies over and over again," Burton says.

After Dauphiné left, Jenkins arrived and identified Cosmos--who was wearing a rhinestone collar--as one of the cats just unloaded.

The Humane Society called veterinarian William Mangham to examine Cosmos and the other seven cats Dauphiné had brought in. Mangham noticed that most had dried feces on their fur. "Cats are never soiled unless they are sick or confined in their own waste," Mangham says. "None of these cats appeared sick."

Feral cats behave more like wild animals than pets. But these eight cats were calm and easily handled. "My impression was that these were all pet cats, and my concern was: Will they be returned to their owners?" Mangham says.

After 16 days missing, Cosmos seemed unhealthy and had dried feces on his coat, Jenkins says. The cat had to be taken to the animal hospital that evening to have impacted fecal matter removed from his intestines, Jenkins says.

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  • I had heard of that woman in newscasts when she was first caught at her heinous crime. Every time I read or hear any of this ranting and raving about cats killing all the birds, I want to scream which serves no useful purpose. However, people are always looking for some other person or some animal responsible for whatever is "wrong." In this case, which I deal with many times every year, cats are blamed for problems created and continued by US. I HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US! Remember that? All the problems to wildlife are created and perpetuated by people and organizations, often wildlife and bird organizations in the case of blaming the cats. That's so easy! They simply will not allow themselves or others to step up to the plate and deal with the REAL problems. In the case of birds and other wildlife, we destroy their habitat, poison their food, hunt (often with lead ammunition), etc., and then blame the cats! When their index finger is pointing at the cats, they should remember their other fingers are pointing back at them, the real cause of all the problems. Even if they are doing nothing, they are NOT part of the solution which means they are part of the problem. But they should be trying to solve the REAL problem and all those bird and wildlife organizations collect lots of money and attention by attacking cats.

  • bird and dog lover

    f*n feral cats.. they are a menace and i dont know why cat lovers (idiots) are blind to the damage they do.
    cant compare to dogs, dogs stay indoors and are controllable when done right.
    cats are stupid and destroy native wildlife etc.

    not to mention i lost my 7 year budgie to a feral piece of shite cat.
    the cat is lucky i wasnt here when it happened, or i would have shot it.

  • Larry Roeder

    I want to thank you for your article. If the lady at the National Zoo did even half of what it seems, she is probably an echo-terrorist, certainly an immature person who should be prevented from contact with any animal, including birds. I've worked with animals all my life as an avocation, camels, horses, other animals, also was a Director in WSPA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and now am a certified Virginia wildlife rehabilitator, which is a voluntary thing. I also happen to be a retired Diplomat with a speciality in disaster management.

    Little doubt that cats can kill, do kill wild life, that they are a threat to the ecology. When I had cats, they were kept inside; but to kill cats in order to articulate a policy of protecting birds shows a terrible lack of judgment, and a cruelty that is very sad; it is her action derived from that immaturity and cruelty which leads me to call her a terrorist.

    We can have an intelligent disagreement/ conversation about whether or not neuter programs work; but even if we disagree, why treat the cats in an inhumane manner? Why make them victims? Cats are not monsters, which is how Dauphine apparently say them. Euthanasia is by the way is NOT humane in many cases and is over-used in shelters because of a lack of resources. Let's be clear. There is nothing humane about killing a perfectly healthy cat. It did not ask for it circumstances. There is also nothing humane about stealing a pet from its owner.

    What we need instead of violence by the kill-shelters or by extremists like Dauphine is an intelligent conversation about policy. Dauphine should be ashamed of herself and has lost the right to work with any animal, including birds. But surely the rest of us can deal with the policy dispute in a mature, non-violent way that respects both science and public values.

    Larry Roeder

  • How to reduce feral-cat numbers THE-TNR-WAY by "natural attrition", but without traps & sterilizing them first:

    (or "The Way That *ALL* Stray-Cats Die")

    1. Aim your car for cats when it's safe for all else to do so.

    2. Put out poison for cats (Acetaminophen/Paracetamol (1-capsule generic tylenol) pain-relievers (the most cat-species specific), antifreeze, vermin-poisons, poisonous plants or animals -- the ways that all TNR'ed cats succumb to "attrition" by poisons).

    3. Infect them with deadly diseases.

    4. Turn your dogs or other large predators loose on them.

    5. Starve them to death.

    6. Let them die of thirst.

    7. Put them in heated boxes until they die of heat exhaustion (emulate hot weather).

    8. Throw them in freezers until they are dead (emulate a harsh winter).

    9. Scratch the cat's eyes and gash their skin to emulate a cat-attack so they slowly die of infections. (Justifiably the same way they destroy all native animals. Though that involves more skinning-alive and disemboweling-alive so the cat can enjoy their play-toy writhe and twitch to death. The longer it takes an animal to die of wounds the more a cat enjoys it. The cat-lovers themselves also greatly enjoy this, or they wouldn't let their cats do it.)

    10. Trap and drown.

    11. Shoot them.

    Can you think of more ways that *ALL* TNR'ed cats die?

    NONE of them die of old-age you know!

    Any of these are the "natural" ways that TNR'ed cats die, according to TNR-Advocates' own definition of how their cats die through "attrition", so TNR-advocates should have NO problems when you destroy their cats this way!

    Right?

    It's how they're doing it! TO EVERY LAST ONE OF THEIR TNR CATS.

    If these methods are acceptable to all TNR-advocates then it's PERFECTLY okay for anyone else to do the same!

    If you kill their cats this way and they complain, they're just being whiny hypocrites. That's all.

    The ONLY difference in destroying them immediately in the manner that ALL TNR'ed cats die; instead of trapping and sterilizing them first; is that some money isn't going into an HSUS board-member's pocket, veterinarian's pocket, cat-food company CEO's pocket, or a drug-company CEO's pocket. That's the ONLY difference.

  • catBIRD

    I wish that cats and birds would eat Dauphines eyes, I bet she didn't have a boyfriend for a long long time:)

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Posted at 09:30 AM/ET, 04/03/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles