FILE - feral cat

In this Friday, April 1, 2016 photo, a feral cat hides in a wooded area near a beach parking lot at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, N.Y. 

(The Center Square) – An animal rights group is applauding a policy change by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources regarding feral cats that could save taxpayers money.

The IDNR no longer opposes “trap-neuter-return” feral cat programs on land not owned, managed or leased by the agency.

Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney for Best Friends Animal Society, said the TNR program has the potential to save millions in taxpayer dollars.

We believe that Illinois taxpayers deserve a program that is more animal friendly, most cost-effective, and one that reduces the burden and bureaucracy on local animal shelters,” VanKavage said.

The organization reports one peer-reviewed scientific study showed that in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, a “trap-neuter-return” program resulted in an average of 54% decrease from initial population levels of free-roaming cats and an average 82% decrease from peak levels.

VanKavage said the old method of dealing with feral cats just wasn’t working.

We have been trapping and killing cats since what, the 60’s or 70’s, and it really hasn’t worked to decrease the population,” said VanKavage. “Birth control works.”

According to the National Feline Research Council, the best available estimate of the population of feral cats in the country is about 32 million, roughly 76% of which live in urban areas.

This is a welcome change to DNR’s policy that mirrors state law’s embrace of TNR and will allow for greater use of trap-neuter-return programs to better manage cat populations around the state,” said state Sen. Linda Holmes D-Aurora.

Founded in 1984, Best Friends Animal Society is an animal welfare organization that has a goal to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.