The Case of Keystone

A few months back a homeowner called Animal Services in Wichita asking for someone to come to his block and do something about the number of cats that were running wild in his neighborhood. These cats were finding their way into a house on the property next to his by climbing a tree and entering through the roof. They were also constantly in his yard, setting his dogs off and causing them to jump through the screened windows. On the day that he called Animal Services one of his dogs had done just this, resulting in the animal being hit by a car.

Animal Services told him that they would not come out as they had no one available and that he should call Friends of Felines instead. He did so, hoping that he could at last recover the respite provided by his home, but was told, again, that he could not be helped. Friends of Felines do not trap cats during kitten season because they don’t want to take mothers from their kittens.

And so out of desperation this homeowner retrieved a handgun, went out into his yard and, allegedly, attempted to shoot the cat. And this is how I learned about the Keystone Apartments in Wichita’s District 3. So I decided to go and take a look at the environs and speak with this gentleman. So along with an individual who runs a spay neuter clinic and an animal rescue in town we went to see for ourselves how bad it was.

We saw several cats (below) running around the lot between buildings. One unit had a portion of the steps pulled away which revealed two holes large enough for the cats to enter for shelter. We knocked on the door and was met by 2 kittens and an elderly woman who was not able to say much more than she was being helped by a group to spay and neuter the cats. A pregnant cat lurked nearby as the kittens poked their heads out at us from the door of the apartment.

In fact ear tipped cats were running around but they were not this woman’s cats. We spoke to a family across from her who said the family that had been taking care of these cats had moved away a couple of weeks ago and the cats were now eating out of the dumpsters and that this woman would occasionally leave food out for them. The cats were living in the basements of these buildings as all of the basement doors were ajar and would not shut. When we walked into these basements we saw cats leap to a hole in the wall and disappear.

We interviewed neighbors who told us that a silver SUV had shown up loaded with traps and released the cats in the apartments. We spoke to the owners of the apartments and they said that tenants are not allowed to have pets.

When I mentioned this at a DAB discussion on TNR, the president of Friends of Felines Shrugged her shoulders and said that this occasionally happens, people will move away and cats will be without a caretaker. She seemed unconcerned that by releasing cats to an individual (if they were in fact released to a caretaker) who cannot legally have cats on their lease, the TNR group is skating dangerously close to violating Kansas State Statute
21-6412 (2) knowingly abandoning any animal in any place without making provisions for its proper care. When I spoke to a state official about this incident at licensing they agreed that this was something that they should probably look at.

And now in Wichita we are looking at the possibility or our City Council members voting to approve an ordinance that would let these groups operate legally and with zero oversight or accountability of their activities. It is difficult to fathom that an advisory board to an Animal Care division could stray so far from it’s stated purpose to protect animals welfare that they, and their misguided adherents, would support a proposal that puts animals in such danger, not to mention the danger to human and wild life in our city.

And despite all of this, remember that City Council members are still free to vote yes for this very proposal. Even if their Advisory boards all vote no. These are dark times for homeowners, their pets and for wildlife in Wichita.

Below are some of the cats we were able to photograph. You’ll notice the left ear on all cats are clipped.

Uncolonised ear-tipped cat.
Uncolonised and eartipped. This is what a Zero Accountability Proposal looks like.
Eartipped and Abandoned
This is where the TNRd cats get their food now that their ‘caretaker’ moved away.
This is where the TNRd cats are living today

City’s Web Based Surveys

If transparency in our government is to be achieved, it will depend in no small measure upon an educated public. If the public is not educated about the decisions being made about their future then transparency is not the whole issue that faces us. If the public does not have sufficient understanding of the proposed actions, then attempts to gauge their opinion, their choice of options or their understanding of the consequences is made tenuous. If we are misled as was the case regarding the capabilities of TNR to meet the needs of Wichita and were misled about the ability of the vendor Friends of Feral Felines KS to carry out the ambiguously defined mission, then transparency has not, and will not be, achieved. We find it difficult to take the city seriously when they say they wish to have greater transparency if this is what transparency looks like.

Wichita Animal Services claims that the outcomes of two web based surveys gave them the necessary information regarding public opinion to pursue TNR as a method for dealing with unowned cats in our city. In this article I will show why that assertion is unjustified.

The city’s use of web based surveys to gauge public opinion on controversial topics should be discouraged and results from such surveys should not be considered, de facto, as substantial proof of a representative opinion. At the very least web based surveys should not be put forth as the Voice of the People without scrutinizing the results of the survey. The use of loaded questions as seen in question 16 (How do you feel about the idea of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return – which is a program that makes sure the cats stop having kittens, they are vaccinated against rabies and returned to the same spot so other cats don’t move in.) is a way to lead respondents to a conclusion about TNR that does not meet the reality, as citizens have already seen even before this proposal has been voted on. This erodes transparency by presenting the results as something arrived honestly when in fact the response was manipulated. This question was followed by a selection of specific responses which guaranteed to weight the opinion in favor of that held by Animal Services. The specific responses are viewable from the link below ‘survey results’. This is not the impartiality the Chief of Police ordered AC to operate under.

Another thing that puzzled me was why, if the opinion of Wichitans was sought, did the survey use an open text field for zip code? Normally you would use a drop down constrained to the zip codes Wichita has. Or you limit the input area to 5 numeric values. I’m not sure this bit means much but it did allow some none zip code data in and I think it shows the level of thought that went into the survey design.

Let’s take a closer at the “Feral Cat” survey presented to the public for 14 days from March 27, 2017 through April 10, 2017.

This KSN news story about the survey says “By about 5 p.m., it already had over 800 responses from the community. ” By 11:55PM it had 1406 which, given the manner in which it was advertised and the widely dispersed locations of respondents, is a bit surprising. Ultimately word of mouth distributed among a network of individuals, like a Facebook group, an email group or members of a chat may have played a greater role in informing people of its existence than its presence on a alone. But were these responses entered by random citizens or was it more organized?

To answer this question I’ve taken the time between subsequent response start times for all 2124 response (this includes those outside of Wichita) and shown how on the first day the difference between each response is less than 30 seconds and the majority are 10-20 seconds apart for the majority of the day. After Day 1 the time between responses grows and the length of time to complete a response grows. This is indicative of brigading and is one reason the city should not rely blindly on these types of surveys. You can view the first 30 responses here to get an idea of what I’m referring to. The entire 2124 can be seen here.

I feel that a note about my data is in order for this next section. The question I have is this: Given the location specific nature of this issue does a result that that treats Wichita as homogeneous whole, with each zip code as being equal in regards to their actual experience of this issue and the possible consequences of this policy really provide a clear guidance for policy making? For example, if a zip code that is relatively free of cats dominates the result set, skewing (my assertion) the results for all Wichita is that really representative of all Wichita? If an area of the city that is seeing the worst impacts of free roaming cat populations, unabated by Animal Control and the conscience of cat fanciers, would they think releasing cats back to their neighborhood be great as the sole alternative? Personally, I think you have to get a representative sample from each zip code and then gauge the results from that to see if the city will be served by the proposal.

The population of Wichita in 2017 (when this survey was posted) was 390,591 according to Census data. I used zip code populations published by which relies on postal delivery information in order to make population estimates with regards to specific zip codes. If a zip code spans 2 cities both populations are counted. If the City of Wichita has more specific data that would be the preferred source for population estimates but my search did not turn up an alternative source.

I am also relying for sample size metrics on this site. An expert for what constitutes a valid sample size would be the preferred method but I have no funds available to access such an expert. I did not compare this to what is published by SurveyMonkey. My reason is that SurveyMonkey is a for profit survey provider and they may not have an impartial metric for determining this. I glanced at their recommendations but made no note of them nor did I compare them with what was presented by You may wish to do so.

For a 2% margin of error and a 95% confidence level, the required sample rate is 2387 for our population size. We had 2124 responses but as is shown not all of these were from the city of Wichita. In order to achieve this sample size 11,935 would need to be invited from Wichita to take the online survey which assumes that only 20% of those (2387) would actually take the time to do the survey. Surveys appear on and are shared on various social media sites to facilitate exposure to the population of Wichita. It’s questionable if random visitors to City sites would generate the kind of response rates that were recorded.

If all 2124 respondents were residents of Wichita our margin of error would be 2.12% with a confidence level of 95%. The charted results presented by Animal Services to the public and to their advisory board did not remove non-Wichita zip codes, opting instead to use all responses even though they were attempting to capture the will of Wichita citizens and even though extraneous data was obviously collected.

Removing out of area zip codes from the results we find representation by 27 different Wichita zip codes, as entered by respondents, to be as follows:

The graph indicates that some zip codes are better represented than others but, as will be shown, still below what is needed to be called ‘representative’. What if some of those zip codes were added by respondents living outside of Wichita to appear as though they were residents? How could we make an educated guess about that?

The use of geo-location by IP address is ubiquitous today. Getting directions to a place from where you are currently located is something that almost all of us present have done at one time or another and is an example of this technology. Another example is when google search results display local businesses.

When you allow a site to know your location, in addition to providing you with say, accurate directions, that information is stored in a database and becomes an asset which can be sold to other interests wanting to offer location based services or fraud detection services. One of the most accurate, fee based databases is maintained by a company named Maxmind.

There were 1973 unique IP Addresses in the survey, location data was available for 1877 and of these IPs 1245 (60%) were located in Wichita, 728 were from locations outside of the city. 96 locations were unknown. Duplicate IPs were not significant, most were 2 entries from the same IP as would be the case for a shared home computer. Only one stood out as there were 10 entries from the same computer owned by the City of Wichita. If this were testing then this data should have been removed but it was not. 66% of the respondents were in Wichita. When broken down by zip code the veracity of this survey results becomes more questionable. Also it is important to note that the location services show where these IPs are currently located not where they were when the survey was first filled out.

Seen in this way it becomes clear that not all areas of the city were represented in the survey. In fact far from it. Some zip codes were not represented at all. Here is a map of zip codes contained in Districts and here is a way to find your district. Of the zip codes that did respond the numbers fall short of representative samples from those locales.

Zip CodePopulationResponses% of Zip PopResponses needed

The percentage of responses per zip code do not meet the necessary minimums to assure that the entire population of that zip code has been reached, let alone the entirety of Wichita. The number of responses required to meet a 95% confidence level with a 2% margin of error is shown in the right most column and when compared to what was actually received it becomes clear that what was gathered cannot be argued as valid for a Voice of The People survey. When one considers that a shocking 25% of Wichita citizens lack access to basic internet services the disparity grows clearer. The survey should not have been the sole justification for the direction taken by Animal Control.

In this article my hope was to show how an uncritical reliance on web based surveys to capture the will of Wichita citizens is not possible. IT is pretty simple to sway surveys by posing questions and providing the responses. These surveys are even less likely to come close to approximating the general will of our citizenry, especially when the subject is on a hot button topic such as how we deal with unwanted pets. Attempts to shape opinion by using loaded questions and canned responses offers a more compelling reason to believe that these surveys are anything more than propaganda for an unproven technique of animal control.

For a broader study of survey based opinions on TNR see The Road to TNR: Examining Trap-Neuter-Return Through the Lens of Our Evolving Ethics

1000 ft view

The citizens of Wichita have been exposed to a lot of misinformation about TNR, it’s impacts on wildlife, and the specific TNR proposal that is quietly being whisked through (without review), as well as how TNR will be implemented and what its effects will be on our homes and the larger community. In order to give citizens a clearer picture of what’s happening in Wichita, a metaphor can be useful.

Imagine you start filling a bathtub and a knock on the door takes you away from the tub and keeps you away for 10 minutes. You’ve forgotten about the tub and you’re putting water on to boil for a cup of tea when suddenly you remember the tub is running!

What is the first thing that you do upon entering the bathroom?

Most of us would immediately turn off the faucets and then pull up the drain plug, depending on the height of the water. This is a common sense response to a potentially costly and damaging situation. In this scenario the tub represents the carrying capacity of the city of Wichita, the running water represents the number of cats entering our streets daily and the plug represents efforts to reduce those numbers.

The Wichita Animal Control Advisory Board (or at least the 4 that quite literally pushed this proposal through) would have you believe that all you need do is remove the drain plug and ignore the running water. The ordinance can be found by clicking the green button on the homepage. Please read it and tell me I’m wrong. The story they tell is: simply implement TNR, stop euthanizing cats and these efforts will be sufficient to drain the numbers of unowned cats in a manner they and proponents see as humane. The problem is that it is not possible in Wichita and is unsuccessful in most places that it has been implemented as a stand alone measure.

The current way of reducing unowned cats is not working well largely because of two factors: euthanizing cats reduces community collaboration towards solving the problem and it does nothing to address the problem at its source which is that the carrying capacity of Wichita is being artificially raised by those who leave out food for the cats and there are no limitations on cat ownership thereby cheapening the species and making it a throw away pet. The current proposal fails to address community needs by doing nothing about cat feeding (widening our tub) and cat ownership (keeping the faucets on) and permits a vendor to have unfettered access to cats in Wichita. Pepper is rolling over in his grave.

For TNR to work in Wichita cat feeding outside of an approved cat colony must be made illegal and feeders should pay a hefty fine with possible jail time for repeat offenders. These people are working against a successful TNR and practitioners of TNR should take a strong stand against this behavior by publicly discouraging it. Neighbors should call animal control to notify them or do so anonymously on this site. Instead this proposal wants to legalize all feeding of cats. Friends of Feral Felines is laughing all the way to the bank.

And what of the nasty ‘E’ word? Euthanasia is not ruled out in TNR but it does take a back seat to other measures, which is something we can all applaud. The danger that citizens face with the current proposal is that no guidelines have been set for when a cat will be euthanized. We have seen cats grossly disfigured with wounds and tumors who have avoided a speedy attrition both under the TNR program overseen by Friends of Feral Felines KS and from other states. Here’s a recent article that compiles many reports of unowned cats suffering. The excuses you read for this is that the cats are simply too difficult to catch or that they deserve to have a natural death. The cruelty of that sentiment is almost too much imagine. For a program that manages cat populations and is wanting to manage the Wichita population neither of these excuses should be acceptable. Euthanasia must be an option for a colony cat (or colony) that is causing a significant nuisance, has been exposed to rabies or have significant injuries. Moving the colony or the cat just passes the burden on to another neighbor. This needs to be clearly spelled out in our law as it will be Animal Control’s responsibility to enforce the law and they need to have the ability to do so.

The shortcomings of the current proposal are detailed in other posts and there are a host of articles here, both pro and con, so please avail yourself and ask questions to your City Council member and to those who support this specific ordinance. Unowned animals need YOUR vigilance.

Common Sense TNR Ordinance Addendums to a lopsided TNR Proposal from ACAB

The purpose of these recommendations are to protect the quality of life for Wichita citizens, at home and at play. Whether they have 4 legs or 2, scales, skin, feathers or fur, all citizens deserve recognition when determining measures that will protect, preserve or guarantee their welfare. An extensive review of city ordinances have shown that these are not unreasonable. While not widespread, they have been found in other ordinances in the US. Friends of Feral Felines should embrace these as opportunities to provide greater security to all cats in Wichita instead of fighting against them. Our additions are as follows:

  1. All feral cats are to be micro-chipped at the time of their ear-tipping.
  2. A rabies booster is to be given according to the vaccine manufacturers protocols. Annual or Tri-Annual vaccinations (for rabies and other illnesses) of all colonized cats.
  3. The guidance provided in the Caretaker Guidelines must be mand ensconced in the language of the ordinance as made available for review as these practices will determine in great measure the success of the project.
    1. Feeding should take place at the same time of day each day, whether once or twice a day for a period not to exceed 30 minutes.  During this time the caregiver will oversee feeding to watch for new cats coming into the feeding area, to note any injured or sick cats and to make sure that no wildlife comes in to feed.
    2. Food must be placed in spill proof bowls or if such bowls are not immediately available or unavailable for some other reason, food should be placed atop a cookie tray or other surface so as to prevent food from falling onto the ground.
    3. Any food that falls to the ground or is not consumed by the end of the feeding must be picked up and thrown away in a container that prevents spillage or otherwise prevents access by animals or insects.
    4. Food must be stored in a climate-controlled environment to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage in containers that are impervious to both insects and animals. Any food that is spoiled must be thrown away and not reused.
  4.  Each colony should have a dug litter box area sufficient for the size of the colony to provide a means of limiting the use of adjoining properties as litter boxes. This litter box area should:
    1. Be dug and consist of a bottom layer if gravel, an intermediate layer of finer gravel, and a top layer of playground sand 3-4 inches in depth.
    2. Sand should be regularly cleaned of fecal matter and other debris to encourage its use.
    3. Sand should be periodically removed and replaced with fresh sand in order to prevent discourage odor, insects and disease.
  5. No colony will be allowed to exist or to be established within 1000 feet of any Wichita Wild Habitat or undeveloped Wild designated properties.
    1. No grandfathering of existing colonies in any of our Wild Parks or undeveloped Wild properties.
  6. All cats, feral or owned, in Wichita must be vaccinated at required intervals and caregivers must be able to provide proof of vaccination, of all cats within their care. The total number of cats not re-vaccinated and the chip IDs of those not being re vaccinated, where possible, should be logged.
  7. Community Cat caregivers must register with Wichita Animal Services as a responsible party or face a penalty of (TBD) in accordance with 6.04.190.
  8. An annual report must be submitted by each caregiver to Wichita Animal Services listing the number of cats, the microchip id and show proof of rabies vaccinations and any other required vaccinations along with those cats not re-vaccinated. Cats TNR’d prior to this ordinance may be exempted from micro chipping  If a chipped cat requires anesthesia at any future time then that cat should be micro chipped.
  9. Organizations participating in the TNR program shall maintain records including number of cats trapped, location of Community Cat colonies, number of cats sterilized, number of cats vaccinated for rabies, number of cats returned, number of cats euthanized due to illness or injury and number of cats trapped, neutered and sent to rescues or foster homes for eventual adoption. These records must be submitted annually to Wichita Animal Shelter for continued registration as a caregiver.
  10. The number of cats in the community cat colony must be shown to be in decline. An increase in the number of cats may result in Animal Services intervention to reduce the numbers or revocation of registration.
  11. Caregivers of feral cats at the time of passage of this ordinance shall be allowed to maintain an existing cat colony in the current state as long as the colony is registered within six weeks from the date of passage. If the colony exceeds eight cats in combination with any owned cats, the caregiver shall not care for any additional cats at any time until the number reaches that allowed by ordinance. If the colony exists in an unauthorized area (within park buffer zones or more than 3 colonies per square mile, the caretaker will have six weeks to comply with ordinance.
  12. The TNR program will be reviewed three years from the date the ordinance becomes law to determine its effectiveness and if it cannot prove effective will be changed or abandoned.

Avoidable Deaths

The death of wildlife is, in part, due to how TNR is implemented. TNR groups are given little oversight, are not held accountable for their practices and offer no transparency to their operations by the governments that permit them to TNR. The stubborn refusal to collect data about their programs only raises the ire of the general public who see the enjoyment of their properties dwindle as neighboring colonist allow their cats to defecate and urinate where they will, to kill birds and other creatures while hunting on neighboring properties and to attack and spread disease to owned pets, all with very little or no attempt to provide solutions.

The effectiveness of TNR is being held back by the ‘all heart, no head’ enthusiasts who wish to pursue their interests at the expense of their neighbors, other peoples companion animals and local wildlife. Monies should only be made available to TNR groups that commit to micro-chipping feral cats and doing proper data collection. Otherwise Best Friends and other deep pocket groups are supporting what verges on a biological weapon of mass destruction.

Wichita TNR articles

The list below are some articles by local press which appeared over the years about the TNR program being pushed by Friends of Feral Felines Kansas. Very little ink was given to opposing views which is not surprising.