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The Road to TNR: Examining Trap-Neuter-Return Through the Lens of Our Evolving Ethics

By Peter Joseph Wolf, Joan E. Schaffner

Category Journal Articles

In the 2008 article “A Review of Feral Cat Control,” Robertson explored the trend developing in the management of so-called “feral” cats away from lethal methods toward the non-lethal method of trap-neuter-return (TNR). The review explored various issues raised by the presence of these unowned, free-roaming cats in our neighborhoods (e.g., zoonotic disease and wildlife predation), stakeholder interests, and management options—all based on then-available information. Missing from the review, however, was an exploration of the shifting ethics underlying TNR’s increasing popularity. In this essay, we explore the ethical aspects of community cat management in the U.S. as reflected in the momentum of the “no-kill movement” generally and TNR in particular. We argue that these powerful cultural currents reflect two interrelated ethical theories: (1) a zoocentric ethic that recognizes the intrinsic value of non-human animals beyond any instrumental value to humans, and (2) a virtue ethic that recognizes the legitimacy of “emotional” considerations (e.g., compassion) that rightly accompany decisions about how best to manage community cats.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 5
Pages 6
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2018.00341
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal shelters
  3. Cats
  4. Ethics
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. peer-reviewed
  8. Pets and companion animals
  9. stray animals
  10. trap-neuter-release
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed