The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has proposed a law prohibiting the release, feeding, and protection of cats throughout Florida. The new policy, if instigated, would allow the eradication of feral cats on public lands in Florida. Feral cats are deemed to be a threat to wildlife by the commission, and members have resisted all efforts by Alley Cat Allies and other animal advocacy groups to educate them to the value of TNR as opposed to shooting the cats, as suggested by one commissioner.
Hoof and Mouth Disease
Dennis David, Director of the commission's Northwest Region, apparently suffered momentary "hoof and mouth disease" yesterday, when he forgot to disconnect his phone after leaving a message giving permission for Alley Cat Allies to attend the meeting scheduled for May 30th. He proceeded to discuss the ACA group with a person, since identified as Dwayne Carbonneau, a field biologist for the committee, calling the advocates for feral cats a "bunch of crazies." The two went on to joke about shooting the cats, including remarks on whether Carbonneau should wear his uniform when shooting them.
For Immediate Release
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Staff ActionsMay Taint Upcoming Decision on Feral Cats
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 27, 2003 A voice mail message left by Dennis David, a staff member with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), on Friday, May 23, 2003, raises questions about the commission's bias on the eve of a public debate about policies regarding feral cats.
After leaving a recorded message for a staff person at Alley Cat Allies (ACA), David went on to discuss the policy under review with an unidentified individual in the room with him.
David referred to advocates slated to appear before the Commission as crazies, dismissed written commentary as "shit," and bantered about shooting cats with an unidentified speaker. "Should I wear my uniform when Im shooting these neighborhood cats?" asked the speaker.Mr. David laughingly warned: "Only after we adopt this policy."
The FWC is scheduled to vote May 30 on a plan to "prohibit the release, feeding or protection of cats" throughout Florida and ban the "creation or maintenance of Trap-Neuter-Release programs." Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy group promoting Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs as a means for managing feral cat populations, filed comments with the FWC citing practical and scientific evidence that TNR programs reduce feral cat populations. An ACA staff member is scheduled to speak at the FWC meeting on Friday.
"We had already made the request that the FWC postpone taking action on its proposed policy toward feral cats until after an unbiased scientific study is done," said Becky Robinson, national director of Alley Cat Allies. "In light of these comments, we believe it is absolutely essential that an independent study untainted by preconceptions and based solely on science be conducted before the FWC votes."
Alley Cat Allies submitted written comments to the FWC on May 7, 2003, documenting that TNR policies are not only the most effective method of feral cat control, but that they are also the most efficient, pointing out that the FWC's proposed policy would expose Florida taxpayers to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to support a short-sighted policy already proven to be ineffective.
# # #
Although David has since apologized for his "unflattering, inappropriate, and insensitive" remarks, other commission members deny that the remarks reflect any bias on the part of other members.
Two facts are sure, though: That David's remarks will come back to bite him on the butt, and that Alley Cat Allies and other advocates will use the serendipitous recording to their best advantage during the public debate of the proposal tomorrow. They have already requested a delay in the vote until "after an unbiased scientific study is done." In my opinion a hasty decision at this point would be a huge mistake.