Change in policy?
I just spoke with a caregiver who said that one of her sterilised cats was caught by mistake when the cats were trapped in her area. There is a persistent complainant there and I advised her to seek help from her MP.
On approaching the AVA to have her cat returned, she was allegedly told that the policy has now changed and that the AVA will not return tipped ear, sterilised cats unless the TC issues a letter to say that the cats may be returned. I have just written to the AVA to clarify. In the past of course, any sterilised cat could be returned - if the TC was agreeable, the cat would be returned. If the TC was not agreeable, the cat could still be released but had to be microchipped and could not be placed back on the street.
This does not mean that there will be increased trapping or an mass culling exercise. This does however mean that it may be very difficult for you to claim your cats if they are mistakenly caught and if the TC will not issue a letter to release the cats to you. Do be extra vigilant about your cats till we find out what is happening.
In theory, those caregivers who are already working with the TC will not be affected even if this new policy is true. For these caregivers, the TC would have first contacted them for help to handle the complaint. Failing that, the caregivers would either remove the cat or ask the TC to step in. As such, no sterilised cats will generally be caught. If a cat is caught by mistake, caregivers working with their TCs will generally already go to the TC and ask for a letter and the cat will be released without a microchip.
However this does have implications for caregivers who do not want to work with their TCs or whose TCs either do not want to work with them, or will not release these cats. They will then not be allowed to claim the cats even if they are sterilised.
It does also mean that it's even more imperative for caregivers to work with their TCs as we have been saying. I just had a feeder write in and tell me that she did not want to alert the TC to the fact that she was managing the cats there for fear of attracting unnecessary attention. She may in fact be achieving exactly what she does not want. She herself may not get the attention- but her cats may - and negative repercussions could follow if there are complaints and no caregiver that the TC knows of in the area.