Alley Cat Allies was proud to be present as Delaware Governor John Carney signed a bill into law on Monday that supports community cat programs like Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) around the state, ensures cats get the protection they deserve under Delaware’s animal cruelty laws, and benefits communities and animal shelters.

Alley Cat Allies staff attorney Molly Armus praises Delaware’s new bill to protect community cats at its signing ceremony.

Governor Carney was surrounded by cats and kittens, as well as human supporters, as he put pen to paper to make the bill official at a signing ceremony. Alley Cat Allies staff attorney Molly Armus said a few words about Delaware’s new law protecting cats.

“Alley Cat Allies started in 1990 specifically to advocate for feral cats because they were falling through the cracks. Animal shelters were simply not made for them,” Armus told legislators and attendees at the ceremony. “So it’s amazing to be here today to witness the signing of a bill that supports Trap-Neuter-Return and other programs that are both humane and effective. Delaware continues to be a leader in this movement.”

Alley Cat Allies advocated tirelessly for this bill, H.B. 235, every step of the way. Our expert staff sent a letter of support to Delaware officials and mobilized Delaware citizens to contact their legislators and urge them to pass the bill. Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, wrote a letter to the editor published in the Delaware State News explaining the many ways in which the bill helps cats and communities.

The hard work paid off and Delaware heard us loud and clear. Joining Armus at the signing ceremony, which was hosted by Alley Cat Allies Feral Friends Network™ member Faithful Friends Animal Society, was a crowd of advocates and representatives from animal welfare groups and shelters. State Representative Michael Mulrooney, the primary sponsor of H.B. 235 for four years, and Senator Nicole Poore, an additional sponsor, were also present.

Mulrooney praised the TNR advocates who will work to help Delaware’s community cats now that the bill has become law.

“It’s going to take a while but it can be done. They’re out there day and night. They’re very passionate people and dedicated,” Mulrooney reportedly told news organization WHYY.org.

The new bill will save cats’ lives by supporting TNR and Shelter-Neuter-Return (SNR) programs. Shelters can now exempt cats who are directed toward community cat programs from animal shelter holding periods. This is important because shelters are stressful and dangerous places for community cats. These cats are not socialized to people and are therefore not suitable for adoption. Most community cats are killed in shelter environments.

Under H.B. 235, shelters can spay and neuter community cats and return them to their outdoor homes immediately, saving the cats’ lives and freeing up shelter space and resources for adoptable animals. The bill clarifies that Delaware’s animal cruelty laws protect all cats from abuse, whether they’re owned or unowned or live indoors or outdoors.

The bill also protects community cat caregivers by stating that they are not the cats’ owners. Defining caregivers as owners discourages well-meaning people from caring for cats and practicing TNR because they worry about the costs and legal responsibilities associated with being an owner. With H.B. 235 signed into law, Delaware’s caregivers can breathe easier knowing their local officials support them.

Delaware’s cats can now live the long, healthy lives they deserve—a win not only for the cats, but for local governments, communities, and shelters. Alley Cat Allies is thrilled to have helped make this humane change possible.