TNR Reality Check
Would you consider this to be a success?
Take a look at what we found at Pier 70 in Philadelphia:
The feral cats are located along the waterfront of the Delaware River. The waterfront is the property of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. This area has trees, grass and overgrowth and is located at the end of a large mall that has a Wal-Mart. There is chain-link fence that has No Trespassing signs posted by DRPA although there are gaps that allow for access.
This colony is run by Philly Ferals under the Philadelphia Community Cats Council (PCCC) and is a pilot project for the city. On the website of the PCCC these projects are touted as humane, effective and beneficial. This is not what we found in even a brief 20-minute visit.
On August 3, 2006 we visited the feral cat colony at Pier 70 located on Columbus Blvd. in Philadelphia. We were there late afternoon and this was the last day of the second heat wave of the summer. We were able to take only two photos using a camera phone.
There were apparently three feeding stations. The first was located behind the Wal-Mart. The second was located 0.1 mile down the road from the first. The third was located 0.2 miles down the road from the second. The second and third are more visible to the public as they are at the end of the large parking lot for the mall although there were also cars parked behind the Wal-Mart near the first station.
A constant along the feeding stations/chain-link fence was a tremendous amount of trash.
At the third station in particular there were countless empty dishes and containers blown about and overturned.
While at the first station, three cats came out from behind the fence to feed: a brown tabby, a white, and a black. We did not take notice to see if they were ear-tipped (an indication that they had been spayed/neutered). The brown tabby came out solo and was approachable. We were able to get close to the cat and wondered why this potentially friendly feline could not have an indoor home.
The food present consisted of dry cat food, wet food, and a milk product. There was no water present. Why would anyone have a milk product in near 100-degree temperature and no water? Ants were crawling all over the food. The wet food had a small swarm of flies and fly eggs. (Fly eggs hatch into maggots). Two of the three cats ate from this food.
Here is a photo of the food at the first station:
ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEO UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
We did not see any cats at the second station. At the third station we saw two kittens about 10 weeks of age - one black and one mostly gray. They were not ear-tipped. These kittens apparently had not been fixed (or removed for adoption) and obviously the colony was breeding.
On the PCCC website they state that there are signs, "that are now posted at strategic locations". The site also says that, "The message on the signs states that the cats should not be fed as they are part of an ongoing project as well as a warning about abandonment".
The third feeding station had no sign. The second feeding station had a sign that was half torn off and what remained was faded presumably from weather damage. The first station had a sign in which the readable part was peeled from the backing and rolled downward like a poster - also obviously not maintained and damaged by weather.
Here is a photo of the sign at the first station:
There was wildlife present, including migratory birds. In addition to rock pigeons, house sparrows and European starlings (all non-native) in the parking lot and on the grassy area, there were adult Canada geese on the waterfront. We heard an American crow calling. We saw many swallows flying above the area. There were several mourning doves on the ground. Gulls were also flying about the area.
On the website of the PCCC they state that by January 2005 a total of 58 cats were trapped and half were returned to the colony. PCCC and other TNR advocates claim that cats are territorial preventing others from joining the colony. However, since January 2005 an additional 25 cats were trapped and sterilized.
What does all this tell us?
TNR does not work.
In only 20 minutes of observation we could see that this area is poorly managed.
Wildlife is present and therefore at risk.
Presumably all those cats are defecating behind this fence where they congregate and creating a potential health hazard. What happens when there is run-off into the Delaware River? Could this be a contaminant to the waterways?
The area is an eyesore and a disgrace to the city. This is not humane or effective. A targeted cat removal program and enforcement of no feeding and trash clean-up is necessary.
By the end of our visit, we planned to return several more times and continue to document everything. Every visit served to confirm for us the ineffectiveness of TNR. Please read further to see what else we uncovered.
Our second visit:
We returned to this site on August 9, 2006. This time we came prepared. We took many photos and video footage. We were there later in the day and spent about an hour observing the three stations (there may be more stations in other areas, but private property signs prevented us from checking).
Most of the food dishes were empty and probably were due to be filled some time later.
This time at the first feeding station we noticed three cats, all not ear-tipped indicating none were spayed/neutered. They were: white, black and gray tabby.
At the second station we noticed at least four other cats: one black and white with a white chin, one black with maybe some brown (or possibly damaged fur), one black, and one black and white with a black chin. The first two were not ear-tipped. The black one was. The fourth cat we could not get a look at the ears.
At the third station we saw at least six other cats: one black with a few white hairs on the chest, two black, two tabbies, and one tabby kitten. One black and one tabby were ear-tipped, the black with white hairs and the other tabby were not, the other black we could not tell, and the kitten (seemingly old enough to have been weaned and removed from the colony) was not.
Birds and trash again present. Signs - same condition.
Out of all the cats we saw, 4 were ear-tipped, 7 were not, and 2 we were unsure. Even if those two turned out to be ear-tipped, that means that more than half the cats we saw were capable of breeding.
We do not know at this time just how many cats are present at Pier 70.
View the photos below as well as our video footage:
Our third visit:
We returned on August 15 and spent about an hour observing. This time we came probably soon after someone dumped several pieces of crusty bread near the second feeding station. A flock of pigeons was eating the bread and foraging at the second station. See photos and video below.
We did not see any cats at the third station; however, we were approached by a very friendly lactating momma cat at the first station behind the Wal-Mart. She has at least three kittens, possibly four. How sad a sight. This cat, half tabby-half white, was so friendly she continuously rubbed against the leg of the person shooting the video. All she wanted was attention. This cat was probably dumped at the colony and was most certainly not feral.
She appeared to be too thin despite the available food. She sneezed four times while we were there and we wondered about the condition of her health. She ate from food that was crawling with flies. These food bowls never seem to be cleaned. Apparently, new food is simply added. She was quite vocal and at one point flopped onto her side and exposed her tummy probably wanting to be rubbed.
The kittens were the ones that were skittish. They did not approach us as easily. Two (maybe three) resembled her, plus there was a mostly black kitten.
We saw one brown and black cat at the second station, apparently, not ear-tipped. We also noticed that the weather-damaged sign was now on the ground.
View the photos below as well as our video footage:
Our fourth visit:
We decided to return the next day, August 16, and again spent about an hour observing. This time we spoke to a manager of one of the stores in the mall. We asked this person if she was aware of the cats. She said yes and that this area is a dumping ground for them. She also told us that folks are seen feeding the cats very early in the morning - maybe as early as 4 a.m. We assumed she was referring to the colony feeders and not just random people feeding.
The bread was still near the second feeding station. This time the pigeon flock was bigger and the birds were actually eating from the cat food bowls. No cats were present at this time.
No cats were present at the third station, although we found more food bowls between the second and third stations.
We returned to the second station. The pigeons had left. To our surprise, out came another friendly feline. This un-neutered male mostly black cat approached and rubbed up against the videographer just as the female cat from the previous day did. This male was also very affectionate, very vocal, and followed the videographer. Why was this cat here? At the very least, should not the friendly felines be removed, altered and put up for adoption? This place was only serving to breed more cats to live poor lives outdoors.
We wondered why no one was trapping these cats. Certainly, trapping could be done at night or on less hot days towards sunrise or sunset.
We returned to the first station to see if momma cat was around. We called for her and out she came from behind the fence. In the video shot during this visit, you can see the degree of emaciation as you look from top down - she is sunken at her sides.
More surprises for our fourth visit included the presence of a gray catbird. This is a migratory species and a summer breeding resident in Pennsylvania. In the video you will see clips and hear the distress call of this bird (which sounds like the meow of a cat, hence the name catbird).
Finally, behind the concrete barrier was yet another problem. Someone had left human food for the cats. Right next to a bowl with cat food were the remains of a chicken meal. Bones were scattered about the ground. They also left some type of cooked meat half-eaten that lay in a Styrofoam container. Rather than throw out this food, someone must have intentionally presumed that this could also be food for these cats. There was a large colony of ants nearby, as well as wet cat food mashed into the ground.
Also important to note is that during every single visit the No Trespassing signs along the waterfront were completely ignored. Several people could be seen casually walking beyond the fence and fishing. During our fourth visit a car pulled into the area at the first station. A young woman and an infant were present. She dropped off her male companion and a young boy who went into the brush beyond the fence to fish. Before he left, we asked him if he had seen cats in that area and he replied, "Lots". He also gestured with his hand to indicate that the cats were all up and down the road along the waterfront.
View the photos below as well as our video footage:
Our fifth visit:
We returned on August 24 and spent an hour observing. We started at the second feeding station. The friendly black and white cat immediately came up to us having only met us for the first time at our last visit. We were greeted by an additional friendly feline - a tortoise shell female. She rubbed against us, as did the male.
There was a black kitten nearby behind the fence.
There was some milk product present from which the friendly male drank.
At some point there was a black cat with some white hairs on the chest, not ear-tipped, and a tabby that appeared to be not ear-tipped.
There was a flycatcher above this station. A quick glance suggested an eastern kingbird.
The sign that had been found on the ground was now being used as a placemat for food and sat upon the US mail bin. Flies were present in the wet food at this station.
Last visit someone had left bread, presumably for the pigeons. This time strewn all over the street near this station were pieces of soft pretzel.
Also nearby was a pile of tomatoes, cucumbers and other produce.
The trash is consistently a problem, but there seemed to be even more than usual all along the fence. There was also an over-filled large trash bag hanging on the fence near the second station.
Between the second and third stations still remained food and water bowls and a mound of ants.
At the third station, six cats were present - five were not ear-tipped and one was ear-tipped.
Of the five that were not ear-tipped, there was a smoky-gray cat that we had not previously seen. The cat seemed to have some infestation on the right ear. There was also a black kitten, a tabby kitten, a tabby cat, and a black cat.
At the third feeding station there was a black cat, two tabby cats, and a white cat - some we had seen during other visits. The two tabbies were not ear-tipped. We did not get a good look at the other two. The friendly white tabby was also present and greeted us. We saw two of her kittens behind the fence.
There was also milk product present from which she drank. There were many flies present and fly eggs covered the wet food.
The chicken bones were still present.
There were Tupperware lids being used as dishes.
Toward the end of our visit we noticed a black cat walking on the road toward the third station.
We also walked past a gentleman who was accompanied by a dog that appeared to be a mixed breed - possibly part pit bull and part boxer, but bullmastiff features and rottweiler features were also present. The dog was unleashed and walked along the fence past the second feeding station.
Again at this visit many were fishing in the No Trespassing area.
The colony caretakers have been careless in controlling trash. Rather than bowls being centralized to a location at each feeding station, there are several in various places, some of which are not at designated feeding stations.
View the photos from our fifth visit below, as well as our video footage:
Our sixth visit:
We returned on September 5, 2006 and spent only about 15 minutes observing. The weather was poor - raining the whole day. We saw only a few cats - not more than 5 total at the three stations. What we did notice were some of the same constants: pigeons eating the cat food and trash everywhere. Different this time was what we found at the third feeding station: a mound of dry cat food. Someone had dumped what appeared to be almost 10 pounds of cat food on the ground just behind the chain-link fence. Unfortunately, we did not have our cameras on hand and could not take a photo. Most of the food at the others stations was either gone or soaked from the rain.
While we were looking at this mound of cat food a police officer approached us and asked what we were doing. We said we were looking at the cats. He told us that we were not supposed to feed them at which point we said we were not and knew that and then we all left. This begs an interesting question: how can a police officer enforce this when there is no current ordinance in Philadelphia against feeding cats? Through our documentation we know that folks other than colony caretakers are feeding the cats. The signs do not help. In fact, the rain has now completely washed out whatever was left of the sign at the first feeding station. At this point there are no signs indicating anything about these cats.
We do know there is an ordinance against feeding pigeons and that the actions of feeding these cats tells us that colony caretakers are in violation of this ordinance (10-110). Since the colony is not enclosed, there is no way to prevent the pigeons from eating the cat food and congregating in large numbers. Furthermore, either the colony caretaker or the property manager is probably in violation of several sections of 10-700 (Refuse and Littering).
Our seventh visit:
We returned on September 12, 2006 and spent an hour observing. Again, we saw several cats and some kittens and visited each feeding station.
At the first we ran into a man and his daughter parked next to the Wal-Mart. He was filling a bowl from a cup. We asked if they had anything to do with these cats and he told us that he was waiting to pick up his wife from work and his daughter did not want the rest of her milkshake so he decided to give it to the cats. We explained that doing so was unhealthy for them and he said he only sometimes feeds them. The cats drank up the milkshake.
The smell near the first feeding station was unbearable.
At the second station we found our friendly black and white unaltered male cat. We also found 18 long rolls (baguettes) of bread. We also found nearby the second station a dead pigeon covered and consumed by maggots.
The large amount of dumped food at the third feeding station was still there, wet and decaying. We do not know if anyone added to that pile or not. We found a cat gnawing on a bone that someone must have left for the cats. There were several large bones scattered on the ground.
View the photos from our seventh visit below, as well as our video footage:
Our eighth visit:
We made a brief stop on September 16. We noticed a new friendly black cat near the Wal-Mart. We also noticed a new cream tabby near the third feeding station. The cat's ears were black from an ear mite infestation.
Our ninth visit:
We made another visit on September 18. This time a veterinary technician accompanied us. We had not noticed in prior visits, but she pointed out to us that our friendly black and white cat that regularly greets us at the second feeding station has ringworm. Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus. The classic round rings were on his ear and paw and there were bare patches of skin. This cat is friendly and rubs against people. Ringworm is a zoonotic disease. Cats are common carriers and the disease probably spreads quickly to other cats in a colony when one becomes infected.
At the third station we found many flies on the now rotten cat food from the large pile that had been dumped. The smell was awful.
We also found a packet on the ground of what we presume to be a flea, tick, and mosquito preventative treatment: Sergeant's Gold Squeeze-On for cats.
View the photos from our ninth visit below, as well as our video footage:
Our tenth visit:
On November 21, two months since our last visit, we found that conditions remained the same. Our visit only lasted about ten minutes. We saw 15 cats, many of which we had not previously seen. Trash just seems to be worsening at every visit. Someone had dumped a large amount of hay at the second feeding station, presumably for the cats to use as bedding. We can only imagine what bacteria, viruses and parasites that hay may harbor. We saw what we thought to be the same all-gray cat from a few months ago. He was fairly approachable and kept his head tilted in an awkward position - something was obviously not right about him.
View the photos from our tenth visit below:
To conclude, this "managed" colony is a prime example of the ineffectiveness of TNR and the problems that abound as a result. Cats are breeding and having to live in inhumane conditions, wildlife is at risk, public health may be compromised, and the amount of trash is disgraceful. The cats that get dumped here like some form of biological litter, as well as the ferals, should be removed. Many adult feral cats can be socialized and adopted. Those that cannot should be set up in enclosures on private property. As a last resort euthanasia is a less self-indulgent and more humane outcome for these cats than living and dying at Pier 70.