The Impact of an Integrated Program of Return-to-Field and Targeted Trap-Neuter-Return on Feline Intake and Euthanasia at a Municipal Animal Shelter
Available evidence indicates that overall levels of feline intake and euthanasia at U.S. shelters have significantly declined in recent decades. Nevertheless, millions of cats, many of them free-roaming, continue to be admitted to shelters each year. In some locations, as many as 70% of cats, perhaps up to one million or more per year nationally, are euthanized. New approaches, including return-to-field (RTF) and targeted trap-neuter-return (TNR) appear to have transformative potential. The purpose of the present study was to examine changes in feline intake and euthanasia, as well as additional associated metrics, at a municipal animal shelter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after institutionalized RTF and targeted TNR protocols, together referred to as a community cat program (CCP), were added to ongoing community-based TNR efforts and a pilot RTF initiative. Over the course of the CCP, which ran from April 2012 to March 2015, 11,746 cats were trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, and returned or adopted. Feline euthanasia at the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department (AAWD) declined by 84.1% and feline intake dropped by 37.6% over three years; the live release rate (LRR) increased by 47.7% due primarily to these reductions in both intake and euthanasia. Modest increases in the percentage of cats returned to owner (RTO) and the adoption rate were also observed, although both metrics decreased on an absolute basis, while the number of calls to the city about dead cats declined.