Don’t Let TNR Become Illegal In Kauai!

Island Cat Updates | April 6, 2016

Aloha Cat Lovers and TNR Supporters! 

Today, I want to extend our discussion about those “closed door,” meetings that were held to decide the fate of TNR (trap-neuter-return) on Kauai. “Closed door” is The Garden Island’s term, because calling them “secret” seems to be interpreted as “illegally secret.” But then, they might be illegally secret.

You might ask, what is so important that it needs all the secrecy? Number one on this list is the hard-core anti-TNR position adopted by ALL bird advocacy groups. It is disappointing to me because some could discuss this rationally. But, they will not, maybe cannot, stand up to the vocal majority of bird conservationists who want to see TNR become illegal, some of whom occupy powerful positions.

For example, we have emails from Mike Mitchell, US Fish and Wildlife project manager on Kauai, who was very upset that an early draft version of a County ordinance did not make all TNR illegal after a phase-out period. Guess what? The revised version of the ordinance does make it illegal, but in a way designed to mislead. Mitchell is not the only one in a powerful position who states that there is absolutely NO role for TNR.

Here’s a brief history. In 2011, there was a unanimous vote by the County Council in favor of a resolution affirming TNR. There was an immediate backlash by bird conservation groups, who threatened a lawsuit. This ordinance was withdrawn, and the legally questionable Feral Cat Task Force, and its follow-on, the Feral Cat Ordinance Committee, were set up. Both created misleading ordinances that make it look like TNR is legal, when it will actually be illegal.

In fact, the latest version of the ordinance is a marvel of bureaucratic double-talk. It creates a complex scheme of buffer zones with a phase-in period, all governed by habitat maps. However, when you examine the habitat maps, the ENTIRE island is designated as sensitive bird habitat. This includes all of our malls, all our neighborhoods, our most densely developed hotel areas, all of our town areas, the industrial parks, even our trash dumps. The result: no TNR anywhere.

The professional conservationists are not bad people, but they are applying what they know about managing wilderness areas to non-wilderness areas with significant human populations. These two types of areas — wilderness and human-populated — are immensely different. Ecology is different. Population dynamics for cats are different. Cat density is over 100 times different. So, what they’re doing raises basic questions of scientific validity.

What is even worse is that what is done in the wilderness areas — suppression of cats in the immediate nesting areas of birds — is a less aggressive approach than what is being advocated for our populated areas: widespread suppression of cats everywhere. Now, that should raise some questions in your mind.

TNR IS the best tool for reducing feral cat impacts in our communities, and the evidence for this is perhaps number two on the list of things you won’t see from these secret meetings. Kauai Community Cat Project’s own data — we have tracked a number of cat colonies for years — show that TNR reduces cat populations and is an effective method for dealing with pet abandonment and animal dumping.

Ironically, it is an American Bird Conservancy sponsored study that shows fed cats, such as those in a well-managed TNR colony, kill 98% less prey than wild, uncared-for cats that must kill to eat. This means that TNR programs in human-populated areas on Kauai will reduce predation better than any practical cat removal program, and yet predation is the number one reason stated for removing cats! Oh, by the way, the number one cause of bird deaths on our island is power lines. (If you’d like to read more information about this subject, here’s an interesting article from National Geographic.)

Finally, some people are determined that their roles on the County Ordinance Committee remain hidden. That their identities would never be released. The Garden Island, when they wrote their “Closed Door Meetings” article, could not find out who these people are, and they asked. I find this odd and completely unacceptable. There are some bird conservationists who agree with me.

Is it legal for KCCP to release these names? The answer, and it cost us thousands of dollars in legal and County fees, is “yes.” We consulted a lawyer, and we filed an open records request to the County of Kauai, under the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA). Part of the County’s release is the complete list of the ordinance committee membership. So the County Clerk has deemed this to be publicly releasable. We are not going to release the names in this eBlast. However, if you are interested finding out who these people are, please contact us.

Finally, we are about to set up a Legal Defense Fund. We’ve already spent funds on legal advice, and on FOIA (federal) and UIPA (state/county) information requests. From these initial steps, we know that well-funded bird conservation groups and government agencies are determined to make TNR illegal. For us, nothing could be more important than ensuring that the right to take care of cats and the aina remains legal. We hope that those who are able will help us financially in this fight. Please note: We cannot and will not use funds donated for TNR, cat and kitten rescue, and other community cat care for this ensuing legal battle, which is why we plan to set up a legal defense fund specifically for that purpose.

Mahalo for your continuing kokua of our island cats!

Basil Scott
KCCP President