04/29/2013 06:38 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2013

Alley Cat Allies, Feline Advocacy Group, Petitions Smithsonian Over Controversial Kitty Study


The Smithsonian came under fire yet again in the aftermath of the controversial cat study that raised some eyebrows earlier this year.

This time around, feline advocacy group Alley Cat Allies plans to deliver a petition with more than 55,000 signatures to the institute on May 1, calling for the Smithsonian to "stop spreading junk science that will kill cats," according to a statement released by the non-profit organization.

The research in question, published in a late January edition of Nature Communications, found that domestic cats kill billions of birds, mice and small animals in the U.S. each year. Funded, in part, by the Smithsonian and led by Scott Loss of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the study drew primarily from past research but concluded that animal deaths at the paws of cats are much higher than previously thought.

Alison Grasheim, associate director of communications for the Maryland-based Alley Cat Allies, explained to The Huffington Post that the study has many flaws -- from the use of dated research to make a case against cats to the numerous extrapolations that were unsupported by collected data. But, most significantly, Grasheim said the study contained euphemisms that supported the killing of cats.

"Really, at the end of the day, they're just advocating for more killing of cats," Grasheim said, pointing to the study's conclusion about the danger of undomesticated felines. "The truth about feral cats is that they have been in this country for hundreds of years. At this point, they're part of our natural environment."

Though the Smithsonian research does not explicitly call for the killing of cats, it does recommend "sound conservation and policy intervention."

Instead, Alley Cat Allies advocates for a trap-neuter-return policy for feral cats -- something which, as the petition notes, is directly attacked by the recent study.

Following the publication, many cat fans were openly skeptical of the study's findings. While some responded vehemently in the comments on HuffPost's own story, others questioned the study's methods and accuracy. At the time, Alley Cat Allies labeled the research "propaganda" in a newsletter demanding that the Smithsonian denounce the study.

The disputed research has also spurred researchers in other countries to address similar cat-killing issues. In Germany, ornithologist Peter Berthold recently proposed that cat owners should pay a tax to cover the damages cats inflict on the bird population, Germany's The Local reports. However, Thomas Schröder, president of the German animal protection association, warned that such a tax could result in owners becoming more willing to part with their pets than pay the fee.

As for future research, Alley Cat Allies hopes that the Smithsonian and other taxpayer-funded organizations will consider more humane approaches that evaluate issues from all sides.

"What we would like is a well-rounded, well-considered science that actually has at its core the belief that all life is valued," Grasheim told HuffPost.