The following letter by Becky Robinson was sent in response to Rhode Island’s legislature’s consideration of HB 7080, “ An Act Relating to Animals and Animal Husbandry – Cruelty to Animals,” which will create a barrier to the only humane and effective program that is saving cats’ lives and saving taxpayers’ money statewide: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).


Chairperson Stephen M. Casey
House Committee on Health & Human Services
Rhode Island General Assembly
82 Smith Street
Providence, RI 02903

Dear Chairperson Casey and Members of the Committee:

On behalf of Alley Cat Allies and our over 5,900 supporters in Rhode Island, I am writing to urge you to remove written permission requirements from HB 7080, An Act Relating to Animals and Animal Husbandry – Cruelty to Animals. If enacted into law as it is currently written, this bill will create a barrier to the only humane and effective program that is saving cats’ lives and saving taxpayers’ money statewide: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

Alley Cat Allies is the leading advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of all cats. We have promoted evidence-based and compassionate policies for cats since our founding in 1990, and we regularly work with lawmakers, shelters, and the public to change attitudes and advance lifesaving laws and policies that best serve the interests of cats.

Today, your constituents are volunteering their time and resources to carry out a solution for your communities and the cats of Rhode Island. Practicing TNR, a program in which community cats—unowned cats who live outdoors—are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped for identification, and returned to their outdoor homes is a win for public health and local governments. Without TNR, populations of cats continue to breed unchecked and many of these community cats are impounded and then “euthanized” (i.e. killed) in shelters at the expense of the taxpayer because they are not socialized to people and therefore, not adoptable into homes.

The primary intent of HB 7080 is to promote TNR by exempting the program from the definition of abandonment. Please see Section 4-1-26 (d)(1) and (d)(2):

(d) It shall not be considered abandonment, and the provisions of § 4-1-26(a) shall not apply to any person who traps unowned feral or free roaming cats, causes those cats to be spayed or neutered, and subsequently releases those cats, provided:
(1) Any medical or surgical procedures performed on those cats are performed by a licensed veterinarian;
(2) The cats are returned to the property where they were trapped; and

We strongly support this language within the bill because it aligns with the original intent of the bill and provides an important clarification for those who do not understand the benefits of TNR. Cats are not abandoned during TNR; they are returned to their outdoor homes where they live and thrive. In fact, TNR programs improve the lives of cats, and this amendment recognizes that fact. Thanks to TNR, cats and people can coexist because the cats no longer exhibit behaviors associated with mating and then caring for litters of kittens and they are vaccinated for rabies.

However, the bill includes additional language to require those who trap cats on private property as part of a TNR program to have written permission from someone with authority to grant permission. Please see Section 4-1-26 (d)(3):

(3) If the cats were trapped on private property and the person who is entering the private property with written permission from a person with authority to grant such permission for the purpose of trapping cats.
This requirement will inhibit—not promote—TNR. If HB 7080 passes as it is written, fewer cats will be spayed or neutered, fewer cats will be vaccinated, and more cats will be killed in shelters.

Written Permission Requirements Have No Legal Precedent in State Law

Multiple states have state laws that specifically support TNR, and none of them require written permission to trap on private property.

Written Permission Requirements are Unnecessary

Not only are there existing trespass laws already in place in the state of Rhode Island to address unwanted activity on private property, canvassing neighborhoods and obtaining buy-in to trap cats is a TNR best practice.

Written Permission Requirements Will Make TNR More Difficult

After supporting TNR programs across the country for more than three decades, we know firsthand that written permission requirements have a chilling effect. Such regulations are unenforceable and actually impede the progress being made by TNR volunteers—good Samaritans who are giving their time and resources to provide a public service. Requiring government-mandated forms from citizens who are providing a benefit to the community cat population has failed in other locations and is destined to fail in Rhode Island as well. If HB 7080 passes with written permission requirements included, TNR in Rhode Island will be greatly compromised.

It is for these reasons that HB 7080 needs to be amended to remove Section 4-1-26 (d)(3), as seen below:

(d) It shall not be considered abandonment, and the provisions of § 4-1-26(a) shall not apply to any person who traps unowned feral or free roaming cats, causes those cats to be spayed or neutered, and subsequently releases those cats, provided:

(1) Any medical or surgical procedures performed on those cats are performed by a licensed veterinarian;
(2) The cats are returned to the property where they were trapped. and

TNR is the mainstream approach to community cats and is unquestionably the present and future of animal control and animal sheltering in the United States. We are a nation of compassionate people who, when given a choice, consistently favor laws and policies that do not bring harm or death to cats. Please do not create a barrier to TNR that will impede the continuation and expansion of this lifesaving work.

We urge you to amend HB 7080 on behalf of your constituents, our supporters, and Rhode Island’s community cats. Thank you for amending this important bill.

Sincerely,

Becky Robinson
President & Founder, Alley Cat Allies