Last year, The HSUS, under the auspices of its newly formed Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, hosted a landmark conference called “The Purebred Paradox,” examining the effects of purebred breeding on the health and welfare of dogs. Breeding for physical characteristics, rather than for underlying health and well-being, causes chronic pain, shortened lifespans and emotional trauma for pets and their caretakers. It is arguably the least understood and least reported major dog welfare problem in America.
Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink
A lost or abandoned cat is examined in Gonzales,
Texas, where a trap-neuter-return program allows
for humane management and population reduction.
HSISP’s second conference, “The Outdoor Cat: Science and Policy from a Global Perspective,” will be held in conjunction with co-sponsors Found Animals and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association in Marina del Rey, Calif., Dec. 3-4. And as with purebred dog breeding, we are neither shying away from controversy nor wading only into problems that offer an easy or quick fix. The conference is anchored by David Macdonald, Ph.D., of Oxford University, one of the world’s leading conservation biologists and an authority on mammalian carnivores, and Dennis Turner, Ph.D., of the University of Zurich, a world authority on cat biology and behavior. The event, for a modest registration fee, is open to the public.
The subject of free-roaming, abandoned, and outdoor cat populations in and around human communities and in other settings has been a divisive one in many quarters, frequently pitting stakeholders in the humane, conservation and scientific communities against one another.
The goal of the “Outdoor Cat” symposium is to bring together scientists, technical experts, and others with an interest in the subject, to take the measure of contemporary scholarship on outdoor cats, and to blend the best information and evidence and turn it into sensible, humane practices and policies for animal care organizations, governments and private citizens.
The HSUS is a natural bridge builder in the century-old debate over the impact of cats on the safety and welfare of birds and other wildlife because we care about cats, birds, and all of the other animals involved. We have long argued that pet cats should be kept indoors for their own health and well-being, and also for the benefit of wildlife in the area. We know the magnitude of the issue, having seen the growth in numbers of stray and feral cats, and watched the dedicated efforts of feral cat advocates addressing the problem through trap-neuter-return. We know the critical scarcity of resources to help reduce outdoor cat populations humanely. We understand the impacts of cats in areas with abundant wildlife, especially in fragile island ecosystems, where cats can add to the many problems humans cause there.
In our view, 21st-century cat advocates and bird protectionists must come together and work effectively toward the common goal of treating all animals humanely and reducing the number of outdoor cats worldwide. Under the leadership of Andrew Rowan, Ph.D., The HSUS’s Chief Scientific Officer, we have invited stakeholders representing a broad range of interests to participate in panels focusing on cat numbers and distribution, historical, global, and ecological perspectives on cats, emerging models for outdoor cat management, and messaging to the public about the presence of cats outdoors. This is an issue we must confront in a measured, science-based way, and with our humane values kept at the forefront of our deliberations.