Cats representing the best friends example
High drama. Suspense. Unexpected plot twists. The kind of stuff that makes you want to look away at times, but you can’t. Am I talking about the latest releases on Netflix and Hulu? Nope! I’m actually thinking about the local city council meetings in states around the country that Best Friends’ legislation and advocacy team members have started binge-watching over the last few years.
OK, perhaps “high drama” is a stretch. However, even in the most humdrum, uneventful council meetings, things can get pretty intense when there’s an animal welfare issue on the agenda. And when that issue is cats living outdoors in the community, said meeting can easily take on that surreal, reality TV feel that keeps so many of us watching. Honestly, my heart goes out to elected officials who are tasked with sorting through the entrenched opinions and general noise that surround the topic of community cats. With so much misinformation out there about “feral” cats and trap-neuter-return (TNR), how can they possibly be expected to make the right decision?
This is where separating fact from fiction and reason from emotion becomes so essential in our work. We often view issues like this through whatever our own personal or professional lens might be. But for policymakers, it’s about understanding an issue from multiple perspectives and representing their constituency to the best of their ability as they make decisions and take action. So, when it comes to helping policymakers make smart decisions about local community cats, peeling away the drama and conflict and simply presenting them with the facts around those multiple perspectives is the way to go.
This is exactly what a paper recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Urban Affairs does. “Managing Free-Roaming Cats in U.S. Cities: An Object Lesson in Public Policy and Citizen Action” examines the issue of community cat management as a matter of public policy (along with the three common management options available) and methodically marches through the empirical evidence for the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
The authors — Peter Wolf, Best Friends research/policy analyst and his co-author, Dr. Frank Hamilton, an associate professor of management at Eckerd College — crafted the paper with decision-makers in mind. They provide a type of decision matrix that helps elected officials consider all of the available information as they determine how best to manage the unowned, free-roaming cats who call their communities home.