Last February, the Cabinet approved the Animal Protection, Rights and Welfare Law Preliminary Project. This law separates two broad sections to establish the legal framework for treatment by challenging the ethical management of cat colonies. It directs public authorities towards their goals. capture, sterilization and return or reintroduction of the cats that compose them (known as the CER method and the CES method, respectively).
This draft law has generated arguments from widely divergent groups, including many conservation scientists, who feel that the new law should not protect stray cats because of the threat it poses to biodiversity. They even propose a clear ban on the breeding and care of these cats and demand that they be exterminated from all public spaces.
However, there are many scientists who suggest the opposite. Cats should be protected by law. Of course, to guarantee animal welfare. But at the same time, because only in this way can the population of homeless cats be reduced, and this will also help preserve biodiversity.
Over 9,000 years of coexistence and mutual interest ensure our relationship with cats. The synergy is excellent. Human activities provide cats with resources for survival, and this little cat’s predatory efficiency is well suited to us as they keep annoying pests at bay.
Its popularity today is such that there are about 4 million cats in Spanish households. Unfortunately About 120,000 people are dumped on the streets every year in Spain. Most die. Survivors often join other cats in groups, multiply uncontrollably and… problems begin!
These stray cats have to find food for themselves and their numerous kittens. They get it from the garbage, but also from hunting. Their prey is usually rodents, but they are also wildlife, which may pose a threat to the conservation of some species. This includes excrement and dirt, signs, noise, parasites, diseases, etc. Many other problems and inconveniences are added as well. In other words, these abandoned cats live badly on the streets. This causes many people to pity them and provide them with food and care.
Why is eradication not working?
Practically All attempts to destroy it have failed. It does not work in densely populated areas. Seemingly. There are more and more cats on the streets.
The gap effect explains much of this failure. When cats are removed from a place where they obtained resources for survival, new cats quickly occupy the empty space.
Even with the greatest effort, almost impossible to remove all cats from an area. So the remnants will reproduce faster and more successfully, the offspring will have higher survival rates and recolonize areas. In fact, it almost always causes a rebound effect.
We can’t forget that high abandonment rates constantly feed the streets with new cats, forcing us to continue withdrawal cycles indefinitely.
Moreover, These eradication programs are very expensive.. But the massive social rejection these actions create is also crucial. Many people find them unacceptable. For all this, programs started are rarely sustained in the long run, so failure is guaranteed.
Protect cats to solve the problem
The only way to avoid the null effect is to allow cats to continue living on the streets. In addition to improving their well-being, the new law comes to regulate how coexistence between cats, humans and biodiversity should be.
To get started,this will regulate the way you look at animals. This is something many well-meaning people are already doing, unofficially. They devote their own resources and time to the care of stray cats, although not always in the best or most appropriate places. Let’s face it, banning them from feeding is not an option. It is currently prohibited in many municipalities. Not important. Many neighbors see that cats have a hard time on a daily basis, take pity on them and take care of them, albeit secretly.
The new law will force municipalities to regulate this issue. Currently, few municipalities have management plans for feral cat colonies. Only 20%. Most do nothing. Thus, with inaction the problem only grows.
The new municipal obligations will include the education and training of those responsible for maintaining the neighbourhoods.. It’s about knowing how to feed, clean and care for it optimally. The most recent studies show that by providing adequate food and environmental enrichment, the predatory activity of colony cats is significantly reduced.
It will also be necessary ethical colony managementusing the method CER (capture, sterilize and return). But not only is their capture and neutering encouraged, but adoption programs for kittens and more sociable cats (like those that have been abandoned recently) will be encouraged, thus driving large numbers of animals off the streets.
Unlike eradication programs, The CER method has a very high degree of social acceptance. This will result in the participation of volunteers. Many people are trusted to do this in a precarious way, with almost no help from public administrations. This will significantly reduce the amount of public resources that need to be allocated. Laws need to not only tend to solve problems, but also be economically viable.
The effectiveness of the CER method is supported by science. Yes, when applied correctly. That is, when cats are massively sterilized and large geographic areas are covered. These targets will be achieved by making it compulsory in all municipalities.
All this management will also contribute to the reduction of predation. It is true that the cat’s hunting instinct is not completely eliminated by neutering. But it is no less true that as food needs are met, its density is significantly reduced. Neutered female cats also do not need to hunt to feed offspring that no longer exist.
In order to preserve biodiversity, the location of colonies will also be arranged in such a way that they are not allowed to be in sensitive areas. and limiting it to less problematic areas.
In addition, measures aimed at responsible ownership of animals and prevention of abandonment were mentioned. This is crucial to moving towards a definitive solution to this pressing problem.
Finally, it’s worth noting that a dangerous scenario is being promoted by the current rhetoric about cats being permanently featured on social networks. Cases of ill-treatment against cat colonies intensified. One of the most serious is poisoning.
In our laboratory, we have detected an increase in cat poisoning in recent years. Numerous wildlife specimens that fall victim to the same poisons are also affected by the placement of the venom. If the conflict created by the cats is reduced, biodiversity is preserved, as the placement of poisonous baits will also decrease.
Frankly, no solution is perfect for a problem as complex as cat overpopulation. However, preventing the implementation of the animal protection law contributes to delaying the implementation of a solution to a problem that concerns us all. Without a law protecting them, cats will continue to live poorly and this will not help preserve biodiversity in any way.
Octavio Perez Luzardo
Professor of Toxicology at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Reference article: https://theconversation.com/por-que-la-ley-que-protegera-los-gatos-callejeros-tambien-ayudara-a-proteger-la-biodiversidad-183467
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