In Los Angeles County, the environmental health department said that the approach has been "collectively ineffectual" and that all county-monitored colonies had significantly increased in number. Gail VanGordon, chief of the county's vector management program, said that in addition to colonies not being reduced or eliminated, feral cats create public health concerns that result from feces and fleas.
Trap-neuter-release advocates say it's common sense: Isn't it better to neuter those cats than to have them out breeding?
"This program has been a boon to animal control folks because it helps them manage an issue in a way that the community approves," said Francis Battista, founder of Best Friends Animal Society, which helps fund FixNation. "If you take feral cats to a shelter, they're dead. Nobody's going to adopt it."
That's part of what drives Roberta Garten, one of FixNation's "master trappers."
She roams the streets of Los Angeles at night in search of feral cats. Armed with a flashlight and a Honda full of a cat's delights -- canned tuna, desiccated fish flakes, sardines, dry kibble and catnip -- she might trap 16 to 20 animals a week. In one two-block radius in Lincoln Heights, she helped trap and fix more than 40 feral cats.
Residents, several of whom feed the feral cats, come outside to help, thanking Garten for her efforts. She's so tuned in to the neighborhoods where she traps that she recognizes each hiding space and kitty, including one particularly stubborn black cat that had been successfully evading her traps and stinky fish.
After a long, cold night of waiting, one curious cat finally wanders into the cage. Garten checks the cat's right ear. It's not snipped, the telltale sign that it hasn't been neutered -- eliciting a "hallelujah" cry of success from Garten.
"I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile," Garten said. "I feel like it's helping this neighborhood a lot."