Right now, the attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, is writing an opinion that could likely include a determination on whether Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is abandonment under Texas statute. TNR is NOT abandonment. But if the opinion says otherwise, it could have far-reaching implications that could limit the practice of TNR by municipalities, nonprofit organizations, and even individuals.

On December 14, we sent a petition to Mr. Paxton telling him that TNR is legal, should not be considered abandonment, and is what Texans want for their community cats. The petition garnered more than 1,000 signatures in just 48 hours from residents of Texas.

Texas has many successful Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs throughout the state, including programs in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and Arlington.

Alley Cat Allies is submitting a legal brief to the Attorney General explaining the facts about TNR and its purpose of allowing community cats to live and thrive in their outdoor homes while managing their population by ending the breeding cycle.

What the Texas Attorney General is Doing

We’ll explain how Texas advocates can take action with us soon. First, the facts:

The attorney general is rendering an opinion on “whether a municipality or local government entity may engage in a Trap, Neuter, Release (hereinafter “TNR”) program in compliance with Texas Penal Code §42.092.” The code section in question involves the definition of abandonment, among other things.

If the attorney general’s opinion is that TNR is not in compliance with that code section, it would not make TNR illegal in Texas. An opinion is only advisory, and not legislation.

Though the attorney general’s opinion is not law, it could affect local government and animal control’s ability to do TNR or discourage individuals from caring for their local community cats. That’s why it’s critical that we speak out together and let Mr. Paxton know what TNR IS and what it ISN’T.

What TNR Is

Through TNR, community cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped, then returned to their outdoor homes. There, they are often looked after by caregivers—good Samaritans who are not owners of the cats (community cats are unowned) but are doing a community service.

Abandonment is a very serious matter, and Alley Cat Allies supports the enforcement of laws that punish true abandonment. TNR IS NOT abandonment. While the legal definition of “abandonment” varies, it generally refers to an owner (or person responsible for an animal) intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence leaving or permitting an animal to be left behind or placing an animal in a strange or unfamiliar environment without the resources they are accustomed to.

TNR IS the only humane and effective approach to community cats. These cats are very attached to their outdoor territories and generally aren’t adoptable. Before TNR, cats were historically rounded up and impounded in shelters and, once it was clear they couldn’t be adopted, they were killed. TNR is good for cats and good for Texas.

For decades, Alley Cat Allies has worked to protect cats and kittens in Texas and empower Texans to defend and care for cats in their community. Through our expertise, we have helped kickstart one of the state’s most successful TNR programs, fought for cats in the wake of cruelty, rescued cats in the aftermath of devastating disasters like Hurricane Harvey, advocated for lifesaving TNR and microchip legislation, hosted educational workshops, and much more. Most recently, we advocated for cats and TNR at a Pearland, Texas, City Council meeting.

We know firsthand that Texans care about their cats and support humane approaches like TNR. Mr. Paxton and officials throughout Texas must understand and acknowledge the facts about TNR, respect their citizens’ voices, and create opinions and policies accordingly.

Alley Cat Allies stands shoulder to shoulder with Texas advocates to defend community cats and TNR. Stay tuned. We’ll let you know what you can do to join us in that mission.