County Restrictions Could Mean Big Trouble For TNR Caregivers and Kauai’s Cats!

Island Cat Updates | February 5, 2016

If you’re helping our island cats as a TNR caregiver, the County is ready to crack down on you like a criminal. Never mind that TNR helps the County tremendously, providing services that would be valued at over $1 million if paid for in cash. Or that these services are provided AT NO COST to the County because they are funded by KCCP and other colony caregivers.

An ordinance is in the works that will make TNR illegal in many areas, and unless a caregiver completes an arduous registration process, it would not be permitted anywhere. Cats could be seized and killed at any time. The registration process and required reporting would be beyond the capability of most caregivers, and it would require reporting exact locations to Kauai Humane Society – who will round up and kill the cats if for any reason it’s decided they should not be there.

Advocates of this restrictive ordinance will make it sound reasonable and good. For example, all colonies will be grandfathered for 5 years, or that there’s a 5 year phase in time period. Don’t be fooled. What all of these nice sounding statements mean is that in 5 years ALL TNR would be illegal.

This ordinance is the result of a process begun in 2013 and dominated by special interest bird conservation groups. Some of you got a glimpse of what’s in the works when the County made the Feral Cat Task Force report public in 2014. The planned ordinance will be an extension of that flawed process.

Neither bird conservationists nor the County like TNR. Conservationists believe it makes more cats, not fewer, or that “it doesn’t work.” The County seems to see it as a liability. Both groups see TNR caregivers as “keeping” cats on public or public-accessible lands; sort of like cattle grazing on public lands in the western US mainland.

But TNR does work. It reduces outdoor cat populations; it reduces their problematic behaviors, and of course, it alleviates pain and suffering for the cats. But the County doesn’t accept or care about these things.

Bird conservationists advocate for zero outdoor cats, something that would require vast resources and something that would create a disastrous increase of rats, mice, and pigeons for all of us. For example, Kauai would be overrun with mice and rats — some estimates are upward of 10 million additional rodents — if all cats were somehow rounded up and killed.

We have fought as hard as we could, but it’s been a lopsided fight with many bird conservation groups and only one KCCP member representing TNR. The entire process has been conducted out of sight from the public. Although JoAnne Yukimura insists that meetings have been open to the public, they are invisible, not meeting any of the requirements for public meetings as set forth in Hawaii’s Sunshine Law. Now, the dominant voices want to make sure this ordinance can move forward quickly to avoid the 2016 elections and any political impacts that would occur.

So, we are starting the process now of publicizing what is going on. There are a lot of details about this, and they matter. Here is a list of some of the issues:

  • Killing thousands of cats is financially impossible, biologically unwise, and completely unnecessary — Costs of trapping and killing thousands of cats would run into many millions of dollars, according to various published studies. In addition, once cats are removed from an area, other cats drift in to backfill those removed, with the result that the number of cats rapidly returns to original numbers within years. This occurrence is called the “vacuum effect,” and it has been documented time and again. Although bird conservationists state repeatedly that there is no such thing as the vacuum effect, a number of their published studies mention this effect, without calling it that. (Contact us for references to these studies.) Killing thousands of cats would result in large increases in numbers of rodents: see next point for details. In addition, while killing thousands of cats would certainly decrease the number of endangered birds killed or injured, there are many other threats to these animals than cats, including dogs and rats and people.
  • Millions of mice and rats would overrun our neighborhoods and parks — Bird conservationists state over and over that there is no evidence that killing cats causes increases in rodent populations. However, there are numerous published studies documenting this occurrence. In addition, KCCP has received numerous anecdotal stories about how having cats around various commercial establishments, as well as individual homes, has kept the rodent population down. Also note that rats are predators of tree- and cliff-dwelling endangered birds. Increases in the rat population will cause more problems for these sensitive birds than the cats slated to be eliminated.
  • Private citizens would need to pay for killing the cats on their own property — The proposed ordinance would require private citizens to round up and kill ANY outdoor cats on their property, AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE. While this idea is certainly offensive, it is simply NOT enforceable. Here in Kauai, there is a requirement to license owned dogs AND cats, and those ordinances are neither complied with, nor enforced, for the simple reason that there are not sufficient personnel resources to do so.
  • The County offers no comprehensive program to actually make it better — Despite the County and bird conservationists arguing that TNR does NOT decrease the numbers of cats, the fact is that TNR DOES decrease these numbers. It does take some time, but in colonies we have monitored for years, the numbers of cats present has steadily declined. However, the numbers of cats present in any given location sometime fails to decline because people dump and abandon adult cats, pregnant cats, and kittens in locations where colonies are known to exist. Colony caregivers know their cats, and the caregivers immediately remove kittens for adoption, and TNR the new adult cats that appear. Thus, what KCCP and other island colony caregivers do is taking positive steps to decrease the numbers of cats on Kauai — all at NO cost to the County. The County has no proposal to make the community cat situation better, other than promulgating an ordinance that would require rounding up and killing all of the cats.
  • The biological impacts on sensitive birds would be worse, not better — Killing thousands of cats would result in huge increases in the numbers of mice and rats on Kauai. Rats are known predators of endangered bird eggs, not only on the ground, but in trees. Killing cats would actually make the situation for endangered birds worse.

We will need everyone pulling together to fight this absurd ordinance. All of the County Council, and especially JoAnn Yukimura, need to hear from many, many people. The message to the Council needs to be loud and it needs to be repeated over the next several months.

Please send your email of protest to all of the County Council members and be a voice for Kauai’s cats and kittens!

Mahalo nui loa,

Basil Scott, KCCP President


Mel Rapozo, Council Chair

Ross Kagawa, Council Vice Chair

Mason K. Chock, Council Member

Gary L. Hooser, Council Member

Arryl Kaneshiro, Council Member

KipuKai Kuali’i, Council Member

JoAnn Yukimura, Council Member