For years, confusion over Virginia’s animal ordinance has caused many of its communities to keep their foot on the brakes regarding Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) out of fear that they could be penalized. Now a new bill to resolve ambiguity and clarify that TNR is legal has moved closer to becoming law!
On February 2, Virginia’s Senate passed SB 1390, which affirms that any and every locality and shelter in Virginia can legally engage in TNR– the only humane and effective approach to community cat populations– if they so wish. Now the bill is on its way to the Virginia House of Delegates. If the House approves, it would then be up to the governor to sign the lifesaving legislation into law.
This bill would be a powerful step forward for animal welfare in Virginia if passed. Though TNR is legal in Virginia and many of the Commonwealth’s communities have been running successful programs for years—and seeing incredible results—uncertainty about the law has made others hesitant to start.
That’s why Alley Cat Allies has been rallying our supporters and advocates across Virginia to support SB 1390.
Last month, our President and Founder Becky Robinson testified before a Senate committee to explain the facts about the bill, what it will really do, and why it matters. The bill is not a mandate that localities MUST do TNR, but a clarification that they CAN.
In fact, SB 1390 preserves flexibility for a municipality to tailor a TNR program to its unique needs. And if a community is not doing TNR, the bill will not force a course change.
To ensure the TNR process runs as smoothly as possible, SB 1390 will also establish state guidelines for an effective program. It requires TNR to be performed under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. It clarifies that the good Samaritans who spay and neuter and vaccinate community cats through a TNR program are not the owners of or legally responsible for those cats—which is key language to protect both cats and their caregivers. It makes clear that when community cats are returned, they are arriving back to their outdoor homes where they live and thrive and are therefore not being abandoned.
Alley Cat Allies has worked for decades to establish TNR as a mainstream practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We’ve seen the shift, the lives saved, the shelter intake numbers dropped, the tax dollars no longer spent on killing cats. And we know that if more cities and counties were aware that they could enjoy the same progress, they would embrace it, too.
SB 1390 is our chance to cement TNR as sound and legal public policy in Virginia. We know that with humane education, plus policies and best practices that focus on sterilization and vaccination, we can protect cats and improve communities across the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.
If you live in Virginia, please keep watching our Action Center and be sure you’re signed up for our alerts on ways you can speak out in support of the bill. We expect movement very soon, and we cannot overstate the importance of your voice.