Sterilizing feral cats better option

This addresses the recent Times article about the Spay/Neuter Impact Program and reducing feral cat populations through Trap-Neuter-Return.

The effectiveness of TNR in controlling cat population growth is well supported by research. In this approach, free-roaming cats are trapped, sterilized and vaccinated in veterinary clinics and returned to their colonies, where they're fed and their health is monitored by caring individuals.

Cats no longer suffer starvation, disease and continual pregnancies. Colony size is reduced through natural attrition.

The alternative to TNR is euthanasia, which has not proven effective in reducing numbers. Though Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose have embraced TNR as the official means to controlling outdoor cat populations, the Contra Costa County Animals Services Department -- that operates what are commonly known as animal shelters -- continues to kill thousands of cats yearly.

TNR programs are also cost effective, spending taxpayer dollars on intake, sterilization and recovery. In contrast, trap-and-kill programs budget for staff and materials to trap, transport, intake, feed and care, euthanize, and dispose of bodies.

It's time our county supervisors and animal services director embrace TNR. It's the compassionate approach, financially prudent and long overdue.


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Ellen Sasaki

Richmond

Reforming 401(k) proposal got an 'F'

A recent column by Steve Butler dissected a proposal by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to reform 401(k) pension plans and gave it an "F."

While I agree with Butler's evaluation, I must point out that this proposal has all the same ingredients as the popular Social Security program: It forces you to make contributions that you can only withdraw at a certain age in the form of an annuity, where low-income recipients receive a greater percentage relative to their contribution than higher income individuals.

So, if you like one, shouldn't you also like the other?

If Social Security were an insurance model, rather than a retirement account, it could fulfill its original purpose of a safety net without running out of funds in 2033.

In exchange for lower premiums, policyholders would collect only for demonstrated needs. That would be a fair way of implementing a means test, as opposed to asking those who contributed the most to essentially forfeit their contributions.

Erich P. Kellner

Walnut Creek

Locking girls up is not the answer

Having worked with girls in the juvenile justice system for more than 20 years, I read with dismay your article, "Closed door opens new opportunities for female juvenile offenders," lauding Girls in Motion, an ironically named program that relies on locking girls up to provide them with treatment.

Most of those incarcerated with Girls in Motion have violated probation, have histories of running away from home, and many have been sexually abused. These high need/low risk girls are typical of girls in the juvenile justice system nationally. But the national trend, supported by the research, is away from locked facilities and toward community-based, gender-responsive programming.

Research on effective juvenile justice programming shows girls, most of whom have trauma histories, are harmed by locked congregate care facilities. Rather, girls' programming should be safe; attentive to girls' relationships; and collaborative with girls.

Almost by definition, locked programs removed from girls' families, schools, communities and daily life decisions cannot satisfy these criteria.

It's disheartening that two decades after Congress instructed states to examine their systems' gender-responsive programming, and well into a positive national movement reducing youth incarceration, we're still praising programs relying on locking up our most vulnerable teens.

Francine Sherman

Newton, Mass. Sherman is a professor at Boston College Law School.

Story about teacher was an inspiration

I want to compliment the paper on the wonderful article on Cristina Igoa, a teacher at Tyrrell Elementary School in Hayward. I'd like to read more stories about real people.

Congratulations to her and her students. I hope a lot of people read such an inspiring story.

Clara Minor

Hayward