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Animals 2017, 7(11), 81; doi:10.3390/ani7110081

An Examination of an Iconic Trap-Neuter-Return Program: The Newburyport, Massachusetts Case Study

Independent Researcher, 4758 Ridge Road, #409, Cleveland, OH 44144, USA
Best Friends Animal Society, 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, UT 84741, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 October 2017 / Revised: 25 October 2017 / Accepted: 26 October 2017 / Published: 31 October 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Sheltering)
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Simple Summary

Local communities in the United States are commonly responsible for selecting the most appropriate method of managing free-roaming cats. Lethal management has been widely utilized for generations, but the use of trap–neuter–return (TNR) has grown in recent decades. Despite expanded use of TNR, a relative scarcity of data associated with such programs exists. This paper retrospectively examines an iconic TNR program—began in 1992—that resulted in the elimination of hundreds of cats from the Newburyport, Massachusetts, waterfront. A careful review of contemporaneous reports, extant program documents, and stakeholder testimony indicates that an estimated 300 cats resided in the area at the commencement of the TNR program; none remained 17 years later. Up to one-third of the cats trapped were sociable and adopted into homes; the remainder were sterilized and vaccinated before being returned to the waterfront, where they declined in number over time due to attrition. A compelling narrative emerged from the available evidence concerning the effectiveness of TNR as a management practice, although a lack of feline population data associated with the Newburyport TNR program underscores the need for establishment of standardized data collection and assessment practices.


The use of trap-neuter-return (TNR) as a humane alternative to the lethal management of free-roaming cats has been on the rise for several decades in the United States; however a relative paucity of data from TNR programs exists. An iconic community-wide TNR effort; initiated in 1992 and renowned for having eliminated hundreds of free-roaming cats from the Newburyport; Massachusetts waterfront; is cited repeatedly; yet few details appear in the literature. Although the presence of feline population data was quite limited; a detailed narrative emerged from an examination of contemporaneous reports; extant TNR program documents; and stakeholder testimony. Available evidence indicates that an estimated 300 free-roaming cats were essentially unmanaged prior to the commencement of the TNR program; a quick reduction of up to one-third of the cats on the waterfront was attributed to the adoption of sociable cats and kittens; the elimination of the remaining population; over a 17-year period; was ascribed to attrition. These findings illuminate the potential effectiveness of TNR as a management practice; as well as call attention to the need for broad adoption of systematic data collection and assessment protocols. View Full-Text
Keywords: free-roaming cats; feral cats; stray cats; trap-neuter-return; TNR; sterilization free-roaming cats; feral cats; stray cats; trap-neuter-return; TNR; sterilization

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Spehar, D.D.; Wolf, P.J. An Examination of an Iconic Trap-Neuter-Return Program: The Newburyport, Massachusetts Case Study. Animals 2017, 7, 81.

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