AVMA considers revising policy on feral cats

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The AVMA is considering revisions to its policy on “Free-roaming Abandoned and Feral Cats” in hopes of building consensus among stakeholders.

Pending approval, the first paragraph of the policy would read as follows: “The AVMA recognizes a mutual goal of veterinarians, humane groups and wildlife conservation entities is to reduce the number of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats in a humane and ethical manner. It therefore actively encourages collaborative efforts to identify humane and effective alternatives to the destruction of healthy cats for animal control purposes, while minimizing their negative impact on native wildlife and public health.”

The AVMA Board of Directors, while meeting Nov. 19-21, 2015, voted to forward the proposed policy to the AVMA House of Delegates as a resolution, with a recommendation for approval. The House will deliberate on the proposal during its regular winter session, Jan. 9 in Chicago, presuming that the delegates waive the Nov. 10 deadline for submitting resolutions.

The AVMA Animal Welfare Committee reviewed the policy in accordance with the five-year review cycle. According to background, the committee “believed the policy could be revised to reflect new information, help build consensus, and provide leadership per the management of free-roaming unowned cats.”

Also according to the background: “The Committee acknowledged that the management of free-roaming unowned cats is a contentious issue. The presence of these cats in the natural environment is undesirable; not only because of concerns for welfare of these cats, but also because of potential detrimental effects on wildlife and public health. There is no broadly acceptable approach to effectively and humanely remove the large number of free-roaming unowned cats from their current habitats. In addition, the problem of free-roaming unowned cats involves multiple stakeholders, who often hold strong and contradictory views on what should be done about these cats.”

The Animal Welfare Committee collaborated with the AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues and the AVMA Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine over a period of two years to review and update the policy.

The revisions would expand all four sections of the policy: “Education,” “Encouragement of State and Local Ordinances,” “Non-lethal Strategies” (currently “Managed Cat Colonies”), and “Research.”

According to the proposed policy: “The AVMA recognizes that multiple approaches have been suggested to reduce the population of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats. Currently there is no single solution that effectively addresses all aspects of the problem in every situation. Any interventions to manage the problem of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats should be well thought out, with consideration given to the welfare of the cats and wildlife themselves, the ecosystem in which the intervention will be conducted, the expertise and abilities of those implementing the intervention, societal and cultural attitudes, and public health.”

Proposals going to the House of Delegates are available here. Members of the AVMA can find contact information for delegates by visiting here.  

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