Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

We can all agree on this: Irresponsible pet ownership is the real killer

This may sound a little extreme, but I don't think it would be bad idea for all school kids to see their local animal services departments systematically euthanize unwanted dogs and cats.

Not when the tykes are too young, of course, but maybe we can work it into the middle school curriculum, along with the lessons about civics and other standard governmental functions — because this is surely one of them.

And all of us also need to view the University of Georgia's gallery of "kitty cam" videos and still photographs showing cats hunting down lizards, chipmunks and birds.

"I think that's an Eastern phoebe," Grant Sizemore of the American Bird Conservancy said Thursday as he displayed a cat's-eye view of a lifeless clump of feathers.

Sizemore was in Brooksville speaking to the Hernando Audubon Society about the conservancy's Cats Indoors program, which means he was speaking out against the increasingly popular method of dealing with feral cats: trap, neuter, vaccinate and return them to the wild.

Naturally, he cited the recent, blockbuster report from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimating that cats killed a median of 2.4 billion birds in this country per year.

Outdoor cats are also the primary carrier of a terrifying parasitic disease called toxoplasmosis. Scientists once thought the risk of this bug was mostly confined to babies. Increasingly, though, evidence shows it may live in the brains of adults for years, contributing to a range of mental health disorders, including depression and schizophrenia.

Among the many other diseases spread by outdoor cats is the old standard — rabies. There's good reason that cats have far surpassed dogs as carriers of the disease, Sizemore said. We don't let dogs run free.

Finally, there's this argument against trap-neuter-return programs: They don't work.

Advocates of TNR often point to research showing that the method gradually reduces the populations of feral cat colonies.

Sizemore cited studies showing the opposite — that enough unneutered cats find their way into colonies of treated cats to keep their populations growing.

If it's irresponsible to allow pet cats to roam free, it seems obvious to me that it's extremely irresponsible to maintain and feed — and, yes, many if not most feral cats are fed — large colonies of feral cats.

It also seems obvious that Pasco County made a mistake by allying its animals services department with a group that performs TNR and that Hernando should steer clear of that direction.

But there's only one problem with advocating against TNR. Its leave you advocating for the killing of kitties — at least unless things change.

Which brings us to something that people on both sides of this polarizing issue agree upon. The underlying cause of the vast number of cat and bird deaths is irresponsible pet ownership.

Spay and neuter your cats. Keep them indoors. Otherwise — and somehow, some way everybody needs to know this — it's not the cats and unfortunate animal services workers who are the real killers.

You are.

We can all agree on this: Irresponsible pet ownership is the real killer 10/28/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 7:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. 13-year-old Janessa's father holds memorial service at Rogers Middle School


    RIVERVIEW — About 100 people sat in the tile-floored multipurpose room Saturday at Rodgers Middle School where Janessa Shannon once sat as a student.

    A mourner embraces Nahshon Shannon after the memorial service for Nahshon’s daughter, Janessa, Saturday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.
  5. Trump: Aircraft carrier a symbol of America's might (w/video)


    NORFOLK, Va. — With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a "100,000-ton message to the world" about America's military might when it is ultimately deployed.

    President Donald Trump commissions the USS Gerald R. Ford on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.