As we’re waiting for the 2013 end-of-year statistics to start coming out, I thought this might be a good time to discuss a very interesting statistical study done by Makena Yarbrough, the director of the Lynchburg Humane Society in Lynchburg, Virginia. The study looked at her shelter’s experience with Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) over several years. Yarbrough even included a “control” in the study in the form of statistics from the city of Danville, which is located south of Lynchburg along the Virginia-North Carolina border.
Yarbrough’s blog post reporting on the study, linked here, is well worth reading. The study looked at the statistics for Lynchburg and Danville for cat intake and disposition for every year from 2005 to 2012. Lynchburg has a program that offers free spay/neuter and rabies shots to feral and stray cats. Danville impounds cats, but has no TNR program. The graph of outcomes in the two shelters shows a stunning difference.
The Danville shelter’s live release rate for cats ranges from 3% to 10% (not a typo) for the years from 2005 to 2012, and the two lowest years are 2011 and 2012, which were both at 3%. Lynchburg’s worst year, at a 21% live release rate for cats in 2005, was never as bad as Danville but the really interesting thing is what happened in 2009, when the Lynchburg shelter began promoting TNR. The live release rate for cats, which had been creeping up slowly before 2009, took a big jump from 36% to 51%. Then in 2010 it took an even bigger jump to 75%. In 2011 and 2012 Lynchburg had an 85% and 81% live release rate for cats, compared to Danville’s 3% in each of those years.
Total intake of cats in Lynchburg dropped from 1354 in 2008, the year before the shelter started promoting TNR, to 949 in 2012, whereas total intake of cats in Danville from 2008 to 2012 stayed fairly steady at 3622 in 2008 and 3557 in 2012. Not all of Lynchburg’s increase in live release rates was due to their drop in cat intake, because the number of cat adoptions went up substantially from 2005 to 2012, but the drop of about 400 cats per year in intake must have contributed greatly to the improved live release rate.
As for 2013, Yarbrough said in August “so far this year we have seen an even bigger decrease in cats/kittens to the point where kitten season seemed very very mild. And we were wondering if we even had one.” She points out that since TNR causes the number of free-roaming cats to decrease, bird conservationists and people who are concerned about rabies should be supporting TNR instead of opposing it.
This isn’t the first time that Yarbrough has published an interesting statistical study. I’ve written previously about her study on the effects of Lynchburg’s appointment policy for owner surrenders. Statistical studies like these are so helpful for shelter reform advocacy efforts. I know that shelter directors are very busy people, but it would be nice to see more such studies, and I’d like to thank Makena Yarbrough for taking the time to analyze and write about her shelter’s experiences.