When it comes to animals in the news, dogs seem to the lion's share of attention. But for once, this is about cats.
Arlington Animal Services (AAS) has received a grant from Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization, to get more cats humanely trapped, spayed, neutered, and vaccinated.
This includes both free-roaming community cats as well as cats that have been turned in by owners to the city shelter.
Best Friends is also funding a full-time community cat coordinator position for one year and providing $5,000 for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program supplies and equipment. At the same time, AAS will also provide another 300 spay/neuter/vaccinate surgeries on shelter and community cats.
TNR is one solution to the problem of loose and feral cats on the streets.
The idea is based on the assumption that there will always be a certain number of unowned cats living outdoors. Shelters have determined that trapping and euthanizing cats does not control the population. Whereas, with TNR, a cat colony whose members have been neutered cannot reproduce and will keep the population stable.
It would be better if there were no cats on the streets at all, since they're exposed to so much danger. But that's an even more difficult challenge.
In a release, Arlington Animal Services Manager Chris Huff calls the partnership "a huge blessing" for Arlington's cats, shelter staff, and volunteers.
"The TNR program for our city can only grow with success by the tools, funding, and partnerships made possibly by Best Friends Animal Society," Huff says.
Best Friends Animal Society's Community Cat Program manager Desiree Triste-Aragon says that TNR saves lives. However it requires that there are residents looking out for them.
"Once these cats are sterilized and vaccinated, they can live healthy, happy lives in their communities, where caring residents look out for them," Triste-Aragon says, calling TNR a "vast improvement over the failed trap-and-kill approach that has been used for generations."
Best Friends Animal Society also guided AAS through organizing a successful volunteer campaign. According to Best Friends coordinator Pat Guerrero, research shows for every dollar invested in effective volunteer engagement, organizations can expect $3-6 in return.
Arlington Animal Services currently operates with 28 full-time employees and a growing volunteer program with over 340 active volunteers.
The TNR program was approved and recommended by the Animal Services Advisory Board for consideration by the Mayor and City Council, and approved in 2013. Support from the community and major animal welfare organizations have helped grow the program.
The Best Friends grant is a big boost for the program's momentum with hiring of the new TNR position, as well as an anonymous donation of $26,000 received for the purchase of a TNR and animal transport van. The van has been ordered and should be available within 120 days.
The city will be holding neighborhood meetings regarding the TNR program, with information about TNR vouchers and trapping.
Feral Cat Sunday events will be held for Arlington residents only in June. Space is limited and first-come, first-serve; the first 40 registrations will be accepted for each event.