Cats stir up controversy in world premiere of TVO Original 'Running Wild: The Cats of Cornwall'

On TVO and tvo.org on Tuesday November 24, 2020, the documentary draws back the curtain on Cornwall’s feral cat problem, highlighting its troubling impact and the citizens devoted to fixing it.
By TVO News - Published on Nov 09, 2020
The documentary can be seen on TVO on Tuesday November 24 at 9 pm ET and will be available for 24/7 streaming on tvo.org and YouTube.

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TVO is pleased to announce the world broadcast premiere of the TVO Original Running Wild: The Cats of Cornwall. Written and directed by Aaron Hancox and produced by Markham Street Films, the documentary can be seen on TVO on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, at 9 pm ET and will be available for 24/7 streaming on tvo.org.

A 70-minute feature, TVO Original Running Wild takes us to Cornwall, Ontario—a small city that has faced a big feral cat crisis for many years. The problem reached a peak in 2017 when 764 stray cats were taken in by the local OSPCA — nearly 30% of the total for the entire province. The national headlines were embarrassing, but the cats’ impact on the city was far worse: the environment, public property and public safety were at risk, not to mention the safety of the cats themselves. 

Running Wild: The Cats of Cornwall tells a fascinating Ontario story,” says John Ferri, Vice President of current affairs and documentaries at TVO. “Not only does it shine a light on the complicated dynamics between humans and creatures we normally think of as pets, but it’s also an inspiring example of how citizen engagement can drive change.”

The documentary introduces viewers to concerned experts and citizen-activists including ecologists Dr. Elizabeth Gow (University of Guelph) and Dr. Bridget Stutchbury (York University) who talk about the impact of cats on bird populations, as well as dedicated Cornwall cat rescuers like Mellissa Alepins and Mary Jane Proulx.  TVO Original Running Wild: The Cats of Cornwall follows these cat crusaders through the streets, alleys and city council chambers as they tirelessly trap, neuter and release (TNR) cats, fighting city hall to take action while Mellissa’s Tiny But Mighty Cat Rescue’s 45,000 Instagram and Facebook followers attract a worldwide audience.  The filmmakers also get answers from the municipality about why public funding for cat control programs is not a priority and find out more about a controversial “you feed it, you own it” bylaw.

But are funding and bylaws enough to solve this problem? Or do the people of Cornwall need to undergo a complete culture shift when it comes to their relationship with these cats? Hancox and his team immerse themselves in the issue to find out, exploring it from all angles—even using drones and hidden cameras to observe the feral animals in the wild. 

A life long cat lover with two rescues, Beau and Fig, Hancox said “We learned so much over the course of making this film—from the staggering impact stray and feral cats have on biodiversity and their classification as an invasive species, to how deeply divided the public was on the issue, and the dedication of rescuers concerned for the physical safety of these cats,” says Hancox. “The bottom line is that Cornwall’s cat crisis is a human-created problem that requires a human fix.”

Running Wild: The Cats of Cornwall will be broadcast on TVO on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, at 9 pm ET and will be available for streaming on TVO.org 24/7. It will also air Saturday, Nov 28 at 9 pm ET and Sunday, Nov 29 at 10:30 pm ET.

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