Thanks to Matt Nowak for highlighting a controversial issue in animal welfare and wildlife circles in his column on July 31.

Crystal Swann Blackdeer
Leavenworth County Humane Society, Inc.

To the editor:
Thanks to Matt Nowak for highlighting a controversial issue in animal welfare and wildlife circles in his column on July 31.


The AVMA and nearly all pet animal groups advocate for owners to keep their companion cats indoors unless supervised and controlled.


Many cats that are labeled feral are actually scared strays who have gotten lost from their homes because owners failed to keep their pets safe at home and provide them with I.D., or because they were abandoned by irresponsible owners.


Truly feral cats are not socialized to humans. They are more like wildlife than pets. They are in the environment because at some point in the past, some person let them or their ancestors down and banished them to an outdoor life. Trap and kill does not control feral cat populations. You may 'clean out' an area, but as long as there is shelter, food, and water, feral cats, or stray and abandoned cats will move in to take their place. The choice is not between cats or no cats, but between sterilized, vaccinated, healthy cats in a managed colony, and multiple generations of breeding cats of unknown health status.  Trap/Neuter/RETURN (not release, though there is debate on this point also) controls population, limits the impact, and is the most effective and humane alternative.


There are humane ways to discourage cats from colonizing an area, and to provide safer environments for birds.


While feral cats do kill some birds, they prefer to kill rodents (thus the popularity of 'barn cats'.) Other issues, such as the decline of natural habitat and use of pesticides, have a far greater negative impact on bird populations than cats do.


Contact with any wildlife, including birds, has the potential for transmission of disease.  Rabies presents the most serious risk to humans. Feral cats in managed colonies are vaccinated against rabies, so present no risk of this disease.


If there is true concern about transmission of disease from cats (and dogs), Leavenworth County and the state of Kansas should institute a requirement for pet dogs and cats to be vaccinated against rabies. The Board of County Commissioners should require registration of pet animals, and resource animal control services in the unincorporated areas of our county.
Owners should take responsibility for their pets, so that dogs and cats of unknown health and temperament are not allowed to roam freely presenting a public health and safety risk.