How to Handle a Citation or Fine

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Being threatened with or receiving a citation can be a very difficult and scary situation. Alley Cat Allies cannot provide legal advice, but we do have some resources that should help.

Know your rights

See our guide; Know Your Rights: How to Talk to Local Authorities. Note that animal control cannot force you to trap cats yourself, relinquish cats to the shelter, or allow them to set traps on your own property unless a cat is sick or dangerous.

Be familiar with your local laws related to cats

Check out our resource on How to Find Laws that Relate to Cats so you can know what the laws are where you live.

If you have been told you are breaking the law, if you are cited for breaking a law, or if you have witnessed inappropriate actions on the part of animal control, consider getting a lawyer. Our resource How to Handle a Citation: A Guide to Getting Legal Help will walk you through the process.

One of the most important things you can do is go directly to those who contacted law enforcement with concerns about the cats. Sometimes, if the person who alerted law enforcement is willing to retract the complaint or at least agree to try other solutions, law enforcement will delay enforcement actions.

Let your neighbor know that you are ready and willing to work with them to address any complaints. Follow our advice on what to do if a neighbor complains.

If You’re Told to Stop Feeding Cats

Feeding bans are cruel and ineffective and won’t achieve what the authority issuing them wants. Cats won’t simply go away when a feeding ban is in place. In fact, they may become more visible as they search for food. See our tips on how you can stop feeding bans.

To stop the feeding ban and protect the community cats you care for, you’ll need to advocate on their behalf.

If the feeding ban was issued by property management, see our information on Conflicts with Property Management.

If the feeding ban was issued by law enforcement, the city council, the mayor, or another municipal leader, these resources will help:

In both cases, be sure you share information on why feeding bans are cruel and ineffective, and the benefits of Trap-Neuter-Return.

If a feeding ban is issued and you choose to keep feeding the cats anyways, know your rights and how to respond if you receive a citation.

Remember, you don’t have to fight a feeding ban alone!

Rally support from your neighbors and reach out to our Feral Friends Network* which is comprised of individuals, organizations, and veterinary professionals with community cat experience working around the country and the world to help cats and the people who care for them. You can request a list of Feral Friends near you at

*Feral Friends are not representatives, employees, volunteers, or agents of Alley Cat Allies. Learn more in our FAQ.

If Trapping is Threatened or In Progress

If traps are being set with the intention to catch and remove cats, there are immediate steps you can take:

1. Count all of your cats

Knowing how many cats you care for will help you identify if cats have been trapped and, if so, which ones. Having records of the cats in your colony will also prepare you for negotiating. Use our Community Cat Colony Tracking System.

2. Try to keep the cats from going into the traps

If traps have already been set, consider overfeeding the cats so they will not be tempted to go into the traps for the bait. Offer lots of tasty and aromatic food that the cats will be drawn to; consider tuna, sardines, fried chicken, or canned food.

Feed the cats multiple times a day. You can also shift feeding areas (and shelters if you have them) away from the trapping area. You may also want to consider using humane deterrents around the traps.

Please note that if a government agency such as animal control is setting the traps, it may be illegal to tamper with the traps or release trapped cats.

3. Look for any missing cats

If cats are missing, immediately go to your local pounds and animal shelters in person to find and claim them. See our information on what to do if a cat you care for has been caught and taken to a shelter.

4. Request that the trapping stop and set up a meeting, if you haven’t already. If trapping has begun, try to find out who is responsible for setting the traps (this could be your neighbor, animal control, private trapping company, or property management) and request that they stop trapping immediately and meet with you to negotiate.

Asking to have a conversation where you can listen to complaints and troubleshoot with humane approaches can help resolve the conflict. See our information on addressing complaints with neighbors or property management and negotiating tips.

Hopefully, your negotiations will be successful and you’ll be able to resolve whatever conflicts started the trapping. However, if your discussions are not going well, be prepared to launch a campaign to protect the cats.

Our guide to Organizing Your Community for Strategic Change for Cats will help.

If a Cat You Care for Has Been Caught and Taken to a Shelter

If you think a community cat you care for has been taken to your local animal shelter, it is important to act immediately and go to the shelter. Do not rely on a phone call or the shelter’s website to confirm whether the cat has been impounded.

The shelter should know that the cat is cared for and someone wants to claim her. Always provide the shelter with your contact information and full descriptions of each cat you are looking for.

It’s important to know what your local animal shelter’s community cat policies are. Learning this information ahead of time, before you need it, is helpful. Some questions to ask are:

  • What happens when animal control receives a complaint or a request to trap community cats?
  • What happens if members of the public bring in community cats themselves?
  • Are there different policies for eartipped cats and non-eartipped cats?
  • Is there a hold time for community cats who are impounded or taken to the shelter? How long is it? Does it include weekends and holidays?
  • Can an individual caregiver claim community cats from the shelter? Is there a fee?
  • If an individual cannot claim community cats, would a local rescue group be allowed to? (If this is the case for your shelter, you should reach out to local cat organizations or rescue groups and ask them to have the cats released to their care. Get in touch with groups in your area through our Feral Friends Network*.)

Being proactive with your local shelter can help protect the community cats you care for. Learn more about what you can do to help your local shelter adopt lifesaving policies for community cats.

*Feral Friends are not representatives, employees, volunteers, or agents of Alley Cat Allies. Learn more in our FAQ.


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