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Conflicts with Property Management or Animal Control

When a property manager or animal control agency wants to trap and remove cats, your goal is to try to protect the cats. The following suggestions should help you accomplish that goal.

Check out our Action Steps: What to Do in Conflicts with Property Management.

Set up a Meeting - Call to schedule a meeting with the owner, property manager, or animal control director; be professional and diplomatic. Note, the shelter or animal control may be under a larger government branch/agency such as public health or public works. Learn more in our Guide to Local Government. Keep this in mind when you are seeking to speak to a decision maker.

Make sure you are setting the meeting with someone who is authorized to make decisions and not a lower-level representative. Don’t negotiate with the animal control officer who has visited the colony site when you can meet with the director of animal control. Similarly, don’t set up a meeting with a groundskeeper when you can sit down and speak to the property manager who oversees the entire development.

Prepare for the Meeting –The key to any response is to remain calm at all times and to make sure that any comments you make are grounded in truth and fact. When preparing, always look for the positive way to present your case. Learn more about how to prepare for a meeting.

As you prepare to meet and negotiate with property management or animal control representatives, consider what the priorities and responsibilities are for your specific audience. The concerns and goals of the other party will depend on who they are. For example, animal control will likely be concerned with enforcing laws and animal regulations and may be accountable to local government authorities. Property managers on the other hand, may be more concerned with potential property damage and concerns from their tenants, to whom they are accountable. Keep these differences in mind! It will help you anticipate the types of questions that will be raised during negotiations and help you directly address the other party’s highest-priority concerns in order to secure the best outcome for the cats.

Be prepared for these topics to arise:

  • If health concerns are raised, make sure that the cats are up-to-date with their vaccinations and be prepared to show their medical records to the owner/manager (learn more about tracking health and keeping good records). Also, reference Alley Cat Allies' Veterinary section on Feral cat health—which includes information about rabies, FIV, and FeLV, as well as reviews of other scientific studies showing that feral cats are healthy and do not pose a health risk to other cats, or humans.

  • During negotiations, the opposing side may suggest inappropriate solutions, such as relocation or removal to cat sanctuaries. An important point to make is that removing the cats is only a temporary measure. Even if every cat is trapped, other cats will eventually move into that area. This is a scientifically documented fact known as the vacuum effect: The original cats chose to reside in the location because there was a food source and shelter; new cats will move in to take advantage of these same food and shelter resources. However, now their population will grow because they will not be spayed or neutered. Learn more about the vacuum effect.

    Learn more about why relocation or sanctuaries are inappropriate bargaining chips. 

Empower Yourself with Legal Knowledge. If you are involved in a situation in which you have been told that you are breaking the law, you are cited for breaking a law, or you feel you have witnessed inappropriate actions on the part of animal control, arming yourself with information on your local laws and ordinances can help. For instance, is there an ordinance authorizing animal control to trap the cats? And, how does the ordinance apply directly to this situation? Is there an ordinance prohibiting feeding or trapping cats? There may be no ordinance that applies to your situation—and knowing that is also helpful. More knowledge means more power. It also means that you will know when you are being threatened with breaking a law that doesn’t exist. A local attorney can also help.

Know Your Rights: How to Talk to Animal Control – If you are approached by animal control in relation to your position caring for cats, it’s important that you understand your rights under the law.

Learn more about OrdinancesArm yourself with knowledge about local government structures as well as your local ordinances.

Learn more about Finding Legal Help – Alley Cat Allies cannot give legal advice. Think about consulting a lawyer for help in discerning the details of your local situation.

Prepare for Negotiation - Use these negotiation tips for finding common ground and a resolution.

Find Resolution with your Opponents - Find out what your opponent’s specific concerns are relating to the cats and provide possible solutions for them. Many times concerns or complaints can be easily addressed. Learn more about how to mediate.

Get Your Agreement in Writing – If you negotiate with a bigger entity, sign an agreement explaining what you will be doing and when. Make sure you both sign it! Use our sample agreement to get started.

Use Bargaining Chips – Part of negotiation is offering services in exchange for getting what you want for the cats. This list of services could help you seal the deal.

Educate Property Managers or Animal Control - Use these educational materials and outreach tools to help you explain to the property manager, or your local animal control agency, what you’re doing and why.

Get Input from Local Feral Cat and Trap-Neuter-Return Experts – Contact a member of Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network. These feral-friendly organizations and individuals may be able to provide you with further advice and guidance. Request a list of Feral Friends Network members in your area.