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City faces lawsuit over handling of street cats

A feral cat

A feral cat near storage sheds at the Pinewood Estates Apartments, photographed February 14, 2012. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Animal activist Marcy Britton has asked a judge to order the city of Albuquerque to halt its support for programs that trap, neuter and return feral cats to the community.

Britton’s suit names Mayor Richard Berry and Barbara Bruin, the city’s director of animal welfare, as defendants.

Britton alleges they’ve “failed to take proper actions to protect animals from ongoing cruelty.”

The city has repeatedly defended “TNR” programs and says they’re recommended by the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, among other groups.

Britton’s lawsuit says Albuquerque works with the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society on a TNR program in which feral cats are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated and returned to wherever they were found.

The practice amounts to abandonment of cats, a violation of city and state laws, Britton argues.

City officials say the program helps control the feral-cat population because, if the cats are merely rounded up and euthanized, unsterilized cats move in to take advantage of whatever food source drew the first group of cats to the area.

“The goal of TNR is to bring down the number of unwanted cats in our community, and it’s working,” Bruin said in response to the suit.

City Attorney David Tourek said the city will “continue to focus on reducing the euthanasia rates of companion animals in the city. The issue will be fully litigated and we are confident that the court will not order the city to change course.”