SNIPi: How did the situation change after this Conference?
Jenny: In 1982, UFAW published its booklet “Feral Cats – Suggestions for Control”, which sold in great numbers and included instructions on ear-tipping. The Danish Society identified their cats in two ways: by a tattoo in the ear and by removing the tip of the left ear. A group of us including an RSPCA inspector thought
long and hard about this. Identifying a cat as neutered was obviously vital, to alert pest controllers and local inspectors to its status, but tattoos would not be visible from a distance and would be indistinct in black cats. Tipping the ear, on the other hand, would carry a very clear message, but the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) viewed the procedure as a mutilation and it was resisted by some vets. Eventually the RCVS gave its approval, because it would prevent the cat suffering the greater distress of being trapped and undergoing surgery a second time. Veterinary authorities in other countries have also shown reluctance, but usually agree in the end.
SNIPi: Was there resistance to TNR?
Jenny: Surprisingly, some of the larger animal welfare charities did not approve initially. Their argument was that every cat should have a home, so they put a higher priority on neutering domesticated cats to prevent their unwanted kittens joining the ranks of the ferals. Others did approve of TNR in principle but found it too time-consuming and resorted to euthanasia. Then there was the problem of cats that did not have feeders and were a genuine nuisance. Ruth went to great lengths to find places such as farms or animal sanctuaries for them, but it often gave her a headache. Nowadays TNR is widely accepted and applied throughout the UK.
SNIPi: How did TNR spread worldwide?
Jenny: It happened very fast. The UFAW booklet sold overseas and we were soon being asked to advise and help. My assistant, the entertaining Peter Neville, helped set up programmes in Tunisia, Greece and Kenya. In 1984 he spoke at a WSPA conference in Boston and this set off great interest in the USA, where we advised on the setting up of Alley Cat Allies. Pat Dymock used the proceeds from her book “Kismet” to fund programmes in Europe’s holiday spots.
In 1983 Kate Horne set up the Society for Neutering Islington’s Pussies (SNIP), with funding from the Greater London Council towards vets fees. She went on to organise C4, a consortium of charities, to spread the load and the cost of TNR in London. After a visit to Paphos in Greece she founded SNIP International, and thanks to Clarissa Baldwin (former Dogs Trust CEO who initiated the International Companion Animal Welfare Conferences) and the generous contribution of trapping equipment by Melvyn Driver (MDC Exports ltd), TNR is becoming possible all over the world.
SNIPi: How important are educational programs that run with TNR projects?
Jenny: Responsible pet ownership needs to be taught if the source of surplus kittens joining the feral population is to be stopped. People closely involved in TNR programmes may not have the time or skills to educate others, but several organisations such as the RSPCA are doing it in schools.
SNIPi: What about feral dogs?
Jenny: In the UK there is not a great problem with un-owned feral dogs. Thanks to Ruth Plant, the number of free-roaming owned dogs has been greatly reduced by the employment of animal wardens and the use of microchip implants. I was surprised when the idea of TNR was taken up by countries where un-owned dogs are a problem, but it seems to work. Anything that will reduce the risk of rabies is worth a try.