Controlling Access to Resources

Community-Based Solutions to Managing Companion Animal Populations

One of the most noteworthy and controllable aspects affecting companion animal population size is their access to resources. Roaming cats and/or dogs rely on food and shelter provided intentionally or unintentionally by people. Food sources include garbage dumps, household garbage, and public garbage bins. Well-meaning households and individuals deliberately feeding animals that they view as stray or being in need, also affect population sizes. The extent to which an animal relies on the resources available on public property for survival will depend on the level of care provided by its owner.

Shelters include structures such as barns, sheds, garages, alleyways, vacant lots, abandoned buildings, warehouses, parks and backyards. Properties with junk and debris lying about provide multiple areas in which to hide. An animal’s survival and reproductive success, which includes survival of offspring, frequently depends on access to these human provided sources of food and shelter. A well fed stray animal is healthy enough to reproduce and potentially have healthy offspring.

The intervention of reducing access to resources should not be used alone. For those animals identified as being dependent on public property resources for survival, changes to the access to these resources should be done in step with reducing the population or by making alternative provisions for those animals.

In some situations, the main food source will be food provided directly by humans through deliberate feeding. The motivation for feeding will vary between geographical areas and between individuals and this must be understood and taken into consideration if attempting to influence human feeding behaviour. Education will play an important role in influencing this behaviour. Some municipalities have taken steps to institute feeding bans, or to legislate ownership of these “stray” animals.

The key message and associated education should emphasize the importance of sterilizing animals. To feed other owned, semi-owned, homeless or feral animals which are not sterilized directly contributes to the overpopulation issue and in turn, causes the suffering and death of animals. The aim is to empower people feeding other animals to take the next steps in providing care, which includes checking the animal for a tattoo/microchip, spaying/neutering and rehoming, practicing TNR or surrendering to a local organization.