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Community Relations Resource Center
Physical threats—or worse, actual violence or cruelty—toward any member of your feral cat colony present a serious and frightening situation for you and for the cats. However, it is important to stay focused and calm—that will help you better protect the cats.
Intentionally hurting a cat is animal cruelty, and it is illegal in every state and the District of Columbia. Direct threats to cats should be taken seriously. Here are some tips for dealing with this situation.
If someone is threatening your cats:
Be safe. Never go it alone—don’t try to deal with threats without a companion or involvement from another party. You may also want to go a step further and notify law enforcement so there is a record of your actions.
Have a conversation, if you can. If you know who is making the threats, you believe that person can be reasoned with, and you feel that it is safe interacting with the individual, then consider a face-to-face conversation.
Educate Others - Use these educational materials and outreach tools to help you inform others about what you’re doing and why. If you don’t know who is threatening the cats, this is your best shot at clearing up any misconceptions that are causing the problem and garnering support in the community.
Sometimes when people are frustrated, they inadvertently say things without realizing the seriousness of their statements. For instance, someone could offhandedly voice their frustrations with the cats by saying something they don’t mean, like: “If something doesn’t change soon, I’ll get rid of them myself!”
Use this conversation to educate the person about the weight of their statements and threats. Remember to stay calm and professional and then clearly explain to them that if they are referring to harming/killing the cats, the cats are protected under anti-cruelty laws and what they are suggesting is illegal. It is best to approach this conversation in a non-confrontational manner, stating that you just want to provide the facts—in case they were unaware of the law—and you know they would never intentionally break the law. In this way, you can hopefully avoid a situation in which they act on their statements.
Next, ask them exactly what their concerns are related to the cats. You may be able to easily resolve the issues, even if the situation has escalated somewhat. Learn more about addressing low key complaints and concerns from the community.
If you get nowhere with this discussion and you feel that the comments were serious and this person actually plans to harm the animals, then you will need to contact the authorities.
Learn more about anti-cruelty law. Intentionally killing a cat is a criminal offense in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, regardless of ownership. Anti-cruelty laws apply to all cats—pet, stray, and feral.
If you don’t know who is making the threats, post notices. Consider posting flyers if you are hearing rumors of threats or you see evidence of cruelty (such as antifreeze left out to poison the cats), but you’re not sure who is responsible. Alerting people that their threatened actions are indeed a crime and that someone is aware of what they are doing may deter them from acting. (Check your local laws through your local government or animal control office for specifics about sentencing, etc. Learn more about how to find your local laws. Photograph any evidence you see and document anything you have heard.
The purpose of posting notices is to alert the person in question to the fact that they would be committing a crime; someone is aware of their intentions; and the neighborhood cats are being looked after. These three facts will hopefully deter them from acting on their threats.
Sample poison flyer. Print this out on brightly colored paper and post it around the neighborhood.
If someone has physically harmed your cats:
When a cat you care for is harmed or killed, it can be very difficult to know what to do. There are steps you can take to protect the cats remaining in the colony and bring justice for the cat who is injured or who you have lost.
First, if the cat is injured, trap her and take her to the veterinarian immediately.
Next, call the police and begin gathering as much evidence as possible. Make sure you take pictures and document as much evidence as you can find—write all of your observations in a journal and include dates and times. We know how difficult this will be if the cat was killed, but you must document how you found her with photographs. If at all possible, get a necropsy (an autopsy for animals) performed on the cat in order to find out the cause of death. Most states have a state laboratory that performs post-mortem tests on animals. Costs vary, but may be worthwhile if evidence aids in prosecution of the case.
At this point you may want to involve a lawyer. In order to protect the remaining cats you may consider installing a video camera on the premises in order to have documentation of activity at all times of the day. This would not only aid with evidence in future cases, but could also serve as a deterrent for anyone coming onto the property with ill intentions.
Find a feral-friendly veterinarian - A local veterinary member of Alley Cat Allies' Feral Friends Network can help with an injured cat and may be able to help you determine cause of death if you don’t find a state laboratory to perform a necropsy.
Find a lawyer – If the situation has escalated to the point where you want to involve a lawyer, these tips can help find one.
Learn about your local government. Arm yourself with knowledge about local government structures as well as how to learn about your local ordinances.