Community-Based Solutions to Managing Companion Animal Populations

A. Types of Companion Animals

There are primarily three types of companion animals. They include owned, homeless and feral. These categories can be fluid as animals move from category to category. Within this population, it is most practical to think of roaming animals as belonging to one of three main groups: owned, semi-owned and un-owned.

    1. Owned – those for whom an owner can be identified. Owned animals are likely to be owned by an individual, a household, or even a business. Owned animals can be confined or roaming.
      1. Confined – Owned animals confined to a property (indoor or fenced) are very likely to be socialised to humans, and are most likely to have their reproduction controlled by humans.
      2. Roaming – One that is not currently under direct control or is not currently restricted by a physical barrier. For the purposes of population management, it is generally the roaming animals that are the focus.
    2. Semi-owned or community animals – the combined group of homeless and feral animals that are the result of failed human contact. These animals originated in the community and become the responsibility of the community in one way or another. Some can be considered “semi” owned, meaning that concerned residents feed them or provide some sort of shelter but do not identify them as their owned pets.
    3. Un-owned animals – defined as homeless or feral animals and are those for whom an owner or caregiver cannot be identified.
      1. Homeless – one time pets that are now lost or abandoned. They are typically accustomed to human contact and still depend on humans for food and shelter.
      2. Feral – animals who are the offspring of feral or homeless animals

    B. Colony

    A colony is defined as a group of three or more sexually mature (aged five to six months or more) animals living and feeding in close proximity. The term is commonly used to describe a group of un-owned or semi-owned cats.

    C. Managed Colony

    A managed colony is a group of roaming animals (commonly cats) that is controlled by a TNR program or similar approach.

    D. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

    Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a program through which feral cats are humanely trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, medically treated and returned to the outdoor locations where they were found.  To stop a colonies’ numbers from increasing, 70% of the members must be altered.  Ideal TNR for reduction and elimination of the cat colony requires a 100% sterilization rate.

    E. Stray

    Stray is used to describe previously owned animals that have become separated from their owners and are therefore lost, or gone ‘astray’. In this case, stray implies that the animals are socialised to humans. Sometimes, however, stray is used to describe all roaming animals, whether socialised or not socialised to humans, and regardless of the animal’s’ sources of food or shelter or ownership status.

    F. Responsible Ownership

    Responsible ownership is a principle of animal welfare that owners have a duty to provide sufficient and appropriate care for all their animals and their offspring. This ‘duty of care’ requires owners to provide the resources (e.g. food, water, health care and social interaction) necessary for an individual animal to maintain an acceptable level of health and well-being in its environment. Owners also have a duty (sometimes a legal duty) to minimize the potential risk their animal may pose to the public or other animals.

    G. Five Freedoms

    The Five Freedoms are a core concept in animal welfare that originated in a UK government report in 1965 and was then refined by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. The Five Freedoms is frequently referenced by animal welfare professionals around the world. It states that an animal’s primary welfare needs can be met by safeguarding the following five freedoms:

      1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
      2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
      3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
      4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
      5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.