The devil is in the details
One thing we discussed at some length today was microchipping of community cats. The AVA was quite keen on the idea initially, but we felt that this was really not the way to go. The AVA wants to maintain the number of cats in an area - and really this IS the aim of any TNRM programme, which is why we tried to emphasise to the officers present. However, we don't see microchipping as a way of usually identifying the cats and hence curbing the population.
Firstly, say there are 10 cats in an area and now there are 15. How do you determine which are the newcomers which are over the quota? Does every cat need to be caught and scanned to determine which are the new cats? This is going to be very labour intensive and very hard to implement. One of the officers suggested doing this randomly, but if this is done, it still leaves the same problem of not being to identify the new cats in the area.
Checking the cats out the low-tech way works - they're ear tipped, marking them out from a distance as being sterilised. In addition, photos can be taken and submitted to the TC. This would be cheaper, and easier to administer for TCs as well as caregivers.
Secondly, what happens to cats already sterilised? Do they need to be caught again and microchipped? It seems that the suggestion is that eventually any non-microchipped cat will be put down and that as time goes on, the older un-microchipped cats will grow smaller in number. I can see this happening gradually, but in the interim period, there's going to be a lot of difficult trapping the hard to trap, already sterilised cats - and then of course, the same problem arises as in my first point, which is how to trap the cats AGAIN to determine they were already done.
My last point is this - I can see why an unsterilised cat or two would be a problem for the TCs. They represent dozens, if not hundreds of cats that might potentially be born because they're not done. But a sterilised, UNmicrochipped cat is STILL sterilised, which means it is not going to reproduce. If there's one extra cat in the area (and of course I'm not suggesting in any way that the number should increase from what the original number in the colony is - ideally of course it shouldn't), but that's it. The population won't exponentially explode. Should that one cat be taken away and killed if it's not microchipped even if it's already been sterilised?
I am glad though that the officials seemed to have taken our opposition to microchipping quite seriously and it seems that they may re-think it. And of course we're very pleased about the reimbursement!