Feral Affairs Network weighs in as Norfolk decides how to deal with stray felines

By Team FAN —

What follows are quotes from FAN officers and volunteers on the Norfolk, Va., ordinance that gives TNR advocates reason to celebrate.

PASSED: Ordinance to amend Chapter 6.1 of the City Code to allow for the trap, neuter, and return of free-roaming cats.

Vaida Moore, president of Feral Affairs Network—

“We are thrilled by this development. TNR (trap-neuter-return) is really the bridge between all sides, meaning it’s the only proven effective free-roaming cat population control method. It also happens to be humane as well, both for the cats and for the humans who work in animal services. We applaud the City Council for amending their ordinance in a manner that reflects the kind, animal-loving community they serve.”

Sheila Hall, FAN’s vice president, treasurer and director of adoptions—

“With a simple spay-neuter surgery (and regular vaccinations) of free-roaming community cats, we can humanely stop the cycle of five cats roaming your neighborhood turning into fifty — or even a few hundred cats — over a very short period of time. Without the burden of breeding (and the accompanying hormonal urges), their temperament changes. The cats are not waiting for the perfect plan. It is community action, such as TNR, that allows cats to live more peaceful, healthy lives, in harmony with their human and wildlife neighbors. See FAN’s life-saving TNR statistics!”

Cleriece Whitehill, secretary and director of community outreach for Feral Affairs Network—

“As rescuers, it’s disheartening to see so many intact cats allowed to free-roam outside, especially those abandoned by their families. It’s so important to spay/neuter to reduce population and microchip your cats to protect them if lost. Additionally, if you feed outdoor cats in your yard, please have them fixed and vaccinated as soon as possible. Don’t wait for them to have multiple litters, as the numbers will grow exponentially. Contact FAN or another rescue group to help you, BEFORE the cats start reproducing.”

Michelle Keith, foster volunteer for Norfolk Animal Care Center (NACC) and Feral Affairs Network—

“I’m grateful to finally see movement making trap, neuter and return (TNR) legal in Norfolk. A pregnant cat can give birth roughly every TWO months, making it possible for her to produce as many as four-to-FIVE litters per year (that’s anywhere from one to NINE kittens in each litter). And when 80% of kittens every year are born outside, TNR is a necessity to keep the community cat population from ballooning and further stressing our city shelter’s resources. Not to mention, it prevents a lot of kittens from suffering and dying on the streets.” 

Cat fights at Norfolk City Council meeting: City deciding how to deal with stray felines

By Cianna Morales Staff Writer

NORFOLK — Feral cats on the streets are known for getting into the occasional spat — but people who look out for them in Norfolk got into it at a council meeting late last month when they disagreed about the best ways to deal with free roaming felines.

The council introduced and approved an ordinance in a 7-1 vote that would allow for a trap, neuter and return program [TNR] to help manage free roaming cat populations in the city. Previous language in the city code prevented the practice, and cats were often taken to Norfolk Animal Care Center.

Detractors of the ordinance object to releasing the cats back into the community, saying feral cats pose a health risk and prey on birds and other wildlife. Proponents say trapping, neutering and returning the cats is the most humane way to keep the population in check.

The ordinance lays out requirements for caregivers of the cats, saying they must be maintained on private property and caregivers have to provide adequate food and medical attention. When the cats are trapped and brought into a veterinarian, they must be sterilized and vaccinated against rabies. Cats must also be ear-tipped for identification — meaning while the cats are under anesthesia for spay or neuter surgery, the vet will remove a small portion of the tip of one ear. This is a signal the cat won’t produce kittens. Caregivers are required to hold onto veterinary documentation for the animals in their care.

Lisa Billow, a member of the National Audubon Society, which is dedicated to birds, spoke in opposition to the measure during the April 25 council hearing. She said feral cats are a danger to native birds and wildlife. She also said cats pose a health risk to pets and people by increasing the risk of exposure to rabies.

The ordinance does have a rabies vaccine requirement and lays out rules about feeding free roaming cats to minimize attracting wildlife.

Alison Sechino, an advocate for the ordinance from the Norfolk Animal Care Center, responded to some of the objections.

“We do need to be mindful and protect our wildlife,” Sechino said. “Trapping, neutering and releasing to colonies is the only proven method of reducing the population of free roaming cats, which ultimately has positive implications for our wildlife.”

Sechino explained that the previous practice of trapping cats and taking them to shelters often led to euthanasia, since they were not social enough to be adopted into homes. She also said removing an adult cat from a cat colony causes an imbalance in the population, and could ultimately lead to more stray cats in a rebound effect.

Rachel Bellis, representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, had requested the April 25 vote be postponed. She said the ordinance was not in accordance with state laws because it made requirements for the care of stray cats less stringent, not more. Bellis submitted a letter to council and also handed over a letter from the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

City Attorney Bernard Pishko said the city is on the “safe side” of any legal arguments against the ordinance. 

Council members weighed in on the issue as well.

Responding to the conflicting opinions, Councilwoman Mamie Johnson said she wanted representatives from the local animal welfare organizations to come together “to figure out what is best for the animals in our city.”

“There is no one right way to address our animals,” Johnson said, and voted in favor of the ordinance.

John Paige was the only council member to vote against.

“We also have to consider our citizens that have problems with cats running in and out of the yard,” he said.

Councilman Tommy Smigiel emphasized the program is called trap-neuter-return, not trap-neuter-release, saying the cats are returned to their cat colonies in different parts of the city, which helps manage the population. Smigiel voted in favor of the ordinance.

“We are thrilled by this development,” said Vaida Moore, president of the Feral Affairs Network, a nonprofit that cares for stray cats throughout the city. “TNR (trap-neuter-return) is really the bridge between all sides, meaning it’s the only proven effective free-roaming cat population control method. It also happens to be humane as well, both for the cats and for the humans who work in animal services.”

“We applaud the City Council for amending their ordinance in a manner that reflects the kind, animal-loving community they serve,” Moore said.

Cianna Morales, 757-957-1304, cianna.morales @virginiamedia.com

The Virginian-Pilot
Submitted May 8, 2023

Feral Affairs Network (FAN) is a 501c3 nonprofit. All donations are tax deductible and applied first to any specific project you may wish to support. Additional funds raised, if any, go directly into the medical fund to save more cats and kittens. Our EIN is 81-4251598, and our IRS confirmation letter may be downloaded from our website. Learn more about FAN’s mission, programs, and read about our positive community impact.