From: Editor, ENN
Published March 11, 2014 04:17 PM

Feral cats a growing health concern

A coalition of more than 200 groups which include various bird and wildlife conservation organizations and animal rights groups are calling on Secretary Sally Jewell of the Department of Interior to take action to reduce mortality to wildlife populations on public lands stemming from the nation's ever-increasing population of feral cats. The group brings evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that feral cats pose a threat to human health as a result of an exposure to rabies and toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease affecting the human brain when exposed to cat feces. 

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"The number of domestic cats in the United States has tripled over the last 40 years and continues to rise," said Dr. George Fenwick, President of the Washington, DC-based American Bird Conservancy. "We are asking Secretary Jewell to take actions that will protect our native wildlife from 150 million feral and outdoor cats that are decimating wildlife populations in the most sacrosanct of locations, such as wildlife refuges, national parks, and other important public lands."

"Domestic cats have been either a direct or indirect factor in 33 bird species extinctions and have been identified by the science community as one of the world's worst invasive species. Rational heads have prevailed in terms of how stray dogs are treated. Stray cats should be treated much the same way. Turning a blind eye to this problem will only perpetuate the escalating impacts to birds and other wildlife, as well as threaten human health and safety," said Susan Elbin, Director of Conservation and Science, New York City Audubon Society.

"Cats out in the natural environment are rapidly proliferating and are also extremely efficient predators of wildlife, squirrel sized and smaller, often to devastating effect. If we are to conserve native wildlife, cat populations as well as other ecologically disruptive invasive species, must be controlled by natural resource professionals especially on lands dedicated for conservation purposes. Cat owners should also be educated as to impacts to the environment of their cats and as responsible pet owners should keep them inside," said Manley Fuller, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation. 

In spite of evidence showing the environmental harm caused by feral cats, state and local decision-makers continue to consider legislation supporting the practice of "Trap, Neuter, Release" (TNR) to maintain feral cat colonies. For example, the State of Maryland is holding a public hearing on Wednesday, March 12 at 1:00 pm to consider S.B. 1010, a bill that would support the continued growth of feral cat programs in the state.

Read more at The American Bird Conservancy.

Feral cat image via Shutterstock.

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