From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2003:
Tales from New York City’s Animal Underground
by Janet Jensen
Adams Media (57 Littlefield St., Avon, MA
02322), 2002. 224 pages, paperback. $9.95.
The Social World of a Cat Culture
by Janet M. Alger & Steve F. Alger
Temple Univ. Press (1601 N. Broad St.,
Philadelphia, PA 19122), 2003. 224 pages,
Too Many Dogs And Cats??
by Dorothea Friz, DVM, Lega Pro Animale
Fndtn. Mondo Animale Onlus (1 Trav. Via Pietro
Pagliuca, 81030 Castel Voltuno (CE), Italy),
2003. 51 pages,
paperback. Ordering info: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Shadow Cats, Cat Culture, and Too Many
Dogs And CatsŠ ?? could together form the reading
list for a short course on humane feral cat
Shadow Cats, by Janet Jensen, could also be
described as a companionpiece to Maverick Cats,
the 1982 classic by Ellen Perry Berkeley. While
Berkeley focused on the barn cats and roaming
toms she has known and watched for decades around
her home in Shaftsbury, Vermont, Jensen follows
the lives and deaths of ferals in New York City.
As recently as October 1994 one
long-departed American SPCA vice president
assured ANIMAL PEOPLE that there were no feral
cats in Manhattan because he never saw any. That
left efforts to help feral cats to individual
rescuers, like Jensen, and ad hoc coalitions,
like Neighborhood Cats, an organization that
ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim Bartlett says “may
be the best thing that has happened for feral
cats in the past decade.” Eventually winning
some ASPCA funding, Neighborhood Cats is now
aiding cat rescuers around the world with an
informative web site and a neuter/return course
offered through an online university.
Jensen briefly explores the culture of
no-kill animal shelters, an essential adjunct to
neuter/return programs to accommodate cats who
for whatever reason cannot be released safely.
In-depth discussion of sheltering, however, is
left to Janet and Steve Alger, whose book Cat
Culture is perhaps the first-ever sociological
exploration of the kinds of personalities–and
problems–that prevail in no-kill organizations.
The Algers researched Cat Culture as
longtime volunteers at the Whiskers cat shelter
in Albany, New York, briefly profiled by
ANIMAL PEOPLE in December 1992. Their
descriptions could be applied with minor
variation to hundreds of other small no-kill
shelters around the U.S.
The Algers unfortunately overlooked the
opportunity to compare and contrast the no-kill
culture with that of conventional shelters.
Andrew Rowan, then directing the Tufts
University Center for Animals and Public Policy,
observed in the mid-1980s that conventional
shelter culture centered on the “euthanasia”
room, with the highest status accorded to the
people who made the life-and-death decisions and
did the killing.
At many shelters this has changed.
Sterilization clinic management, adoptions,
promotion, and fundraising all now seem to have
higher rank, while “euthanasia technician”
seems to have slipped in status.
Instead of working their way up to
“euthanasia technician,” as a step toward
becoming executive director, career-conscious
shelter workers often now bypass killing–and,
when they are appointed executive director, they
are markedly more reluctant to accept killing
animals as the only solution to problems that
formerly doomed millions.
Too Many Dogs And CatsŠ?? by Dorothea
Fritz, DVM, a humane legend in Italy, is an
illustrated handbook promoting neuter/return of
both feral cats and street dogs. Written for use
mainly in Europe, it is packed with tables and
graphics potentially useful anywhere,
illustrating how neuter/return works and why it
succeeds in achieving lasting dog and cat
population reductions, when done at a
sufficiently high volume.