How to save & take care of a kitten and feral cats - an advocacy tool kit

Cat Leash Laws: The End of the Line

Publications| Cats and the Law

Laws mandating that cats be kept either indoors or on leashes will increase the number of cats killed in our nation’s animal shelters. The number one documented cause of death for all cats in the U.S. is being killed in animal shelters. Leash laws send even more cats into a system in which many cats are killed.

Fatal Consequences for Cats

Cat leash laws result in more cats killed. They operate on the principal that any cat found outdoors should be brought to an animal shelter where she may be killed.

Any cat not wearing a leash is a visible target for animal control. Even indoor-only cats who have escaped are at risk of being impounded and killed.

Leash laws are especially lethal for community cats, who do not have owners to leash them and whose home is the outdoors. Although these animals have been living outdoors in close proximity to humans for over 10,000 years, leash laws allow animal control to pick them up and bring them to pounds and shelters where virtually 100% of them will be killed.

Debunking Cat Leash Law Myths

Even though cat leash laws result in more cats killed, some supporters claim these laws are beneficial. Discover why those claims are myths.

Myth: Cats should have to wear leashes because dogs do.

Truth: Cats are a different species from dogs and should be treated accordingly.

Most animal damage control laws originated to protect humans and human property against certain damages dogs caused. Recently, some jurisdictions have tried to impose the same laws on cats, despite the obvious differences between the species.

Most importantly, cats differ from dogs in the kind and seriousness of harm they may cause. Animal damage control laws were enacted in the U.S. primarily to compensate for dogs killing livestock and to protect against rabies, which at the time had no preventive vaccine or post-exposure treatment. Cats, at most, can cause only trivial damage to humans and their property. Rabies, meanwhile, has been virtually eradicated from cat and dog populations; no human has died after being bitten by an infected cat in over 40 years in the United States. Since leash laws are intended to protect against significant harm, there is no justification for leashing cats.

Myth: Cats shouldn’t be allowed outdoors off a leash because they kill birds and wildlife.

Truth: Humans, not cats, are responsible for bird and wildlife species loss.

Overwhelming evidence shows that human activities which threaten these species covers a vast range, including logging, crop farming, livestock grazing, mining, industrial and residential development, urban sprawl, road building, dam building, and pesticide use. Across the United States, little land is left untouched by human development, modification, fragmentation, and pollution. Those who claim cats are a major threat to wildlife use misleading language to evade human accountability; by lumping thousands of human activities and damages into the single category of “habitat loss,” they make other, inconsequential issues appear more important.

Humans continue to create and maintain a habitat that is beneficial to cats but inhospitable to many bird and wildlife species. Focusing on cats killing birds and wildlife trivializes the critical issues facing these species today, all of which are human-caused. Read more here.

Myth: Cats really belong indoors.

Truth: Cats have been living outdoors, without leashes and in close proximity to humans, for over 10,000 years.

Proponents of cat leash laws claim that cats should only live indoors in human homes, and that if they are allowed outdoors it should only be at the end of a leash. In fact, the most up-to-date research indicates that cats have been living outdoors in close proximity to humans for over 10,000 years. For centuries they have traveled the globe with humans and thrived. Claiming that cats belong only indoors or on a leash is contrary to the habitat and natural history of the species.