Alley Cat Allies is dedicated to advocating for nonlethal methods to reduce outdoor cat populations.

More cats are intentionally killed in the United States than die from any other documented cause.

Who is responsible? The vast majority of these killings are perpetrated not by cruel individuals, but by and with the authority of an antiquated animal control system. These killings are performed by government employees and contractors, and spill over to private shelter employees.

Everyone deplores this killing. Many characterize it as “necessary evil.” Alley Cat Allies knows that there is nothing necessary about this evil.

Today’s animal control system developed over 100 years ago to address certain serious harms that dogs posed to humans. It was, and is still today, based on ownership of animals. Animal control laws attempt to control animals by controlling their owners. They are a collection of owner duties to prevent damage, for example, duties to leash, to muzzle, to fence, and to vaccinate. Animals who do not have owners (the stray population) or whose owners cannot comply must be impounded and adopted or killed.

This system is widespread and deeply entrenched; it is written into all state and many local government laws, and it commands government buildings, equipment, and personnel, and government contracts, budgets, and revenues.

But in the past three decades, radical change has taken place in the stray animal population. Cats, not dogs, now comprise a vast majority of the stray population. Many, if not most, of these cats are not socialized to humans because they are offspring of a lost or abandoned owned animal. They are not owned animals.

Nevertheless, far too many animal organizations ignore these changed demographics and insist that the historic system based on owner liability continues to be a viable way to control the stray animal population. They claim that the solution lies in broadening existing laws to include cats, increasing enforcement, imposing more fines—in short, doing more of the same. And, in the interim, continue to accept that killing is a necessary evil.

Feral cats are not socialized to humans. They are not candidates for adoption into homes. To put them into an animal control system where the only positive outcome is adoption is to hand these animals a death sentence. For these reasons, Alley Cat Allies insists that this country must create a new animal control system—a system that offers positive outcomes for both owned and unowned animals. In other words, we recognize that the historic animal control system is the problem, not the solution.

Fortunately, a viable, nonlethal alternative has already been identified and is being implemented in communities across the world. Since 1990, ACA has led the nation in humane education about the nature and circumstances of stray and feral cats and in promoting Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the only humane, effective method to reduce their population. Now ACA is moving forward to advocate for essential reform of animal control systems and ordinances in communities nationwide.

1. Alley Cat Allies envisions the time when TNR and other nonlethal control measures for managing outdoor cat populations are accepted as the standard.