Community cats lawyer up
Everyone likes lawyer jokes, except maybe lawyers. But here at Best Friends, we love our attorneys! They’re the ones who do the often invisible and underappreciated legal work that sets the stage for our lifesaving programs. These days, a lot of that has to do with local and state ordinances related to facilitating trap-neuter-return (TNR) and shelter-neuter-return (SNR) programs, both of which are key to keeping community (stray and feral) cats out of shelters. They are humane and effective free-roaming cat population management policies.
The methodology is very simple. Community cats are trapped, either by local rescue organizations or a local shelter. They are then spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies and returned to the location where they were trapped.
This week, community cats got a big boost from the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section Animal Committee in collaboration with Best Friends’ legislative team.
This is important because when advocates seek municipal support for community cat programs, they frequently run into obstacles posed by a city council or a city attorney unfamiliar with the legalities surrounding TNR or SNR.
These activities have been challenged in some areas of the country because of the inconsistent legal treatment of stray cats and TNR by local laws. For example, if the TNR practitioner is deemed an “owner” of the cat, he or she could be subject to several obligations, which may include licensing, pet limits, and at-large or leash laws, making it virtually impossible to perform TNR. Further, even if the TNR practitioner is not deemed an owner, feeding bans, nuisance laws and laws prohibiting abandonment may subject TNR participants to civil and/or criminal prosecution or potential liability to third parties. Such uncertainties can slow or shut down these programs.
Often the only recourse is to help draft ordinances that clarify these inconsistencies and smooth the way for TNR-type operations. However, it usually takes more than a winning smile and a package of cat treats to move an ordinance forward.
The ABA is the largest association of legal professionals in the country, and their adoption of resolution 102B encourages elected officials to pass uniform laws and policies that allow the implementation and administration of TNR programs.
This is a powerful tool in the hands of local, state and federal advocates, who will no longer have to go before a legislative body empty-handed to plead the importance of effective community cat programs. They now have the respected authority of the American Bar Association on their side.
Stray and free-roaming cats need all the help they can get — and this is a big help.
We are grateful to the ABA and very proud of our pioneering legislative team led by our lead legislative analyst, Ledy VanKavage.
Together, we will Save Them All.