Nearly four years ago, the former executive director of the Portsmouth Humane Society, Christie Chipps Peters, started a TNR program for the feral cats received at the VA shelter. The program was a success in that it saved the lives of feral cats and the staff maintained the colony created by the release of the neutered, vaccinated cats in the woods behind the shelter. The problem was that the records for each of the cats involved in the TNR program were intentionally miscategorized as “adopted” with the adopter in each case being a shelter employee. In addition, the state of Virginia does not have a law on the books that officially addresses the practice of TNR:
The law dictates that animals brought into shelters can either be adopted, returned to their owners, transferred to another agency or euthanized.
To complicate matters further, it seems as if the city, which contracts with the Portsmouth Humane Society for animal control, views the obligation to accept feral cats differently from the HS board president, Rebecca Barclay:
The city’s contract with the Portsmouth shelter remains in question. City officials believe dealing with feral cats was part of the deal.
“We’re disappointed,” City Attorney George Willson said.
Barclay contends the animal shelter was never equipped to handle feral cats and that its staff should never have accepted them.
“Because feral cats are unadoptable,” Barclay said. “They do not have the potential to become pets.”
When shelter officials worked out the contract with the city, Barclay said, it was made clear the shelter would not accept feral cats.
Willson and City Manager John Rowe could not confirm that, but noted that the shelter has been accepting them from the beginning of the five-year contract, in 2010.
It appears that the city and the HS board president have been operating under opposing assumptions for years. And that the executive director of the HS was given free reign to address the issue as she saw fit. When Jenn Austin took over the ED position at the shelter in February 2013, she continued the existing TNR program.
On May 31, 2013, a former Portsmouth HS employee filed a complaint with the state about the miscategorization of records for cats involved in the TNR program. The state investigated and issued a fine:
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has handed Portsmouth a $1,250 fine for several “critical failures to provide adequate care” at the shelter located at 4022 Seaboard Court.
In response, the city reacted in a reasonable manner:
Portsmouth City Manager John Rowe said Friday that he wasn’t aware of the shelter’s practice, but is reserving judgment on the matter. He said he plans to let the shelter and the state resolve it.
“They’re saying they’re in compliance with the law,” he said. “I’m not a judge.”
The HS board president however, claiming she was “shocked and appalled”, went Matrix on the shelter, firing the executive director, ordering the staff to stop accepting feral cats immediately and hiring a team of lawyers to defend the HS. Amidst this kind of hysteria, PETA was bound to smell blood in the water and their spokesman inserted herself into the melee in order to promote their Yay for Killing Cats agenda. PETA, which actively seeks out homeless cats and dogs and kills nearly every one they get their hands on, supports TNR – when it’s for deer. But the practice they call a “humane alternative” for controlling deer populations somehow doesn’t apply to wild cats. Cats must die. All die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11!!!
I hate to bring reason back into the picture here but I’m wondering if this whole issue couldn’t simply be solved by the city putting an ordinance on the books that addresses TNR. (Virginia is a home rule state.) Then the city could still have a place to bring its feral cats and the shelter could provide care for them while correctly categorizing the cats’ records as TNR. The board president lady and PETA can still have their pearl-clutching tea party where they can hyperventilate to Polly Prissypants about the horror of community cats being neutered, vaccinated, and allowed to live.
In the meantime though, the Portsmouth Humane Society staff will still be allowed to maintain the colony established in the woods behind the shelter. Recommendations on how to remove the colony without killing the cats are reportedly being sought.
(Thanks Clarice for the links.)