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The head of the District’s Department of Energy & Environment told a D.C. Council committee today that a draft of the city’s Wildlife Action Plan does not advocate the culling of feral cats.

Director Tommy Wells told Councilmember Mary Cheh that the section on cats in the 214-page document suggests D.C. “revisit” its current Trap-Neuter-Return policy and does not endorse “a repeal or reversal.”

“To be clear: The proposed wildlife plan… does not advocate for the collection and euthanizing” of feral cats, said Wells, the former Ward 6 councilmember. DOEE, however, does recognize the “significant negative impacts that cats are having on native wildlife,” he said. 

Currently, D.C.’s feral cats are sterilized and vaccinated then released back into their community, where some of cared for in colonies by members of the public. Unhealthy feral cats are treated by places like the Washington Humane Society, and are released or euthanized depending on their condition. Supporters of the TNR policy fear that the Wildlife Acton Plan, as proposed, will lead to feral cats being euthanized in shelters.

“The plan only says as a strategy to look at that practice,” Wells said Friday. “It doesn’t say to change it, it doesn’t say to get rid of it.” He added that D.C. has “sensitive habitat areas that need restoration and protection.”

The Committee on Transportation and the Environment heard testimony from more than 30 witnesses today, most of whom spoke specifically about the TNR policy.

Scott Giacoppo of the Washington Humane Society said the District’s policy before TNR resulted in many unadoptable cats being euthanized and did not effectively reduce the feral cat population. “We have been successful working with people in the community who may have conflicts with those animals,” he added. Giacoppo’s position was supported by other organizations like Alley Cat Allies and by public witnesses who trap feral cats and care for colonies.

Among the groups that support D.C. revisiting or changing the policy: PETA, the American Bird Conservancy, the Wildlife Society, and the Audubon Society. The reasons ranged from the killing of wild birds to the “suffering” (as a PETA representative put it) of cats who live outdoors.

DOEE’s proposed amendments to D.C.’s fish and wildlife regulations (which is separate from the action plan) were also published today, and included a section on feral cats:

1575 WILDLIFE PROTECTION: FERAL DOGS AND CATS

1575.1 When no other control methods have been proven to be adequate, a wildlife control services provider may control feral dogs and cats. 

1575.2 The control of feral cats by a wildlife control services provider shall be consistent with the District’s policy in favor of trap, neuter, or spay, and return or adoption for controlling feral cats.

1575.3 The wildlife control services provider shall:

Minimize the use of euthanasia when medical treatment or adoption is possible; and

Make a good faith effort to provide for adoption of trapped, tamable kittens.

DOEE is currently revising the Wildlife Action Plan so it may submit it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for edits and approval. The agency will take public comment on the proposed changes to the fish and wildlife regulations for the next 30 days.