Fact Sheet| Cats and the Law, Trap-Neuter-Return

In August 2017, officials in Lafayette, LA, approved an overhaul of its animal control code that added a strong new Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) ordinance to protect community cats and their caregivers. Alley Cat Allies is proud of this achievement, as we worked with nonprofit animal welfare organization Target Zero to advise on language for the ordinance, review changes, and address concerns from the Lafayette community.

The ordinance officially declares TNR the city’s “preferred method” of addressing community cat populations, and includes a section that details the steps to TNR and protections for those who carry it out. It also adds new definitions to terms like “community cat” and “Trap-Neuter-Return” that make it clear community cats are allowed to live freely in their outdoor homes. With this ordinance in place, Lafayette’s caregivers now have the support they need to conduct more TNR.

Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux signed the ordinance into law with the objective of saving more animals’ lives and transforming Lafayette into a model community for animal protection. This ordinance is a big step forward toward that objective.

What we like about the ordinance:

  • It declares that the Lafayette Animal Care Center and other local shelters shall refer impounded community cats to a TNR program.
  • It adds key definitions of terms like community cat, community cat caregiver, Trap-Neuter-Return, and eartip.
  • Community cat caregivers are explicitly exempt from being considered owners. Ownership comes with its own set of rules, many of which would hinder TNR efforts. This ordinance makes it clear that caregivers are not owners, but simply Good Samaritans.
  • Community cat caregivers are permitted to redeem, or pick up, community cats from the shelter without proof of ownership or paying fees. This is solely for the purpose of TNR.
  • All cats are permitted to be “at-large” so animal control officers will not trap and impound them.
  • It explicitly states the “return” step of Trap-Neuter-Return does not count as “abandonment” of an animal, which is illegal.
  • It adds a detailed section explaining the TNR program.
    • Trapped eartipped cats will be released on-site unless veterinary care is required.
    • Eartipped cats will be returned to their location unless they need veterinary treatment.