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

In July of 2016, Montgomery County, TX, passed a strong Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) ordinance that not only supports TNR efforts, but also encourages Shelter-Neuter-Return (SNR). The ordinance was drafted with Alley Cat Allies’ assistance, and our guidance on the language ensures that the county’s cats and caregivers are protected.

Montgomery County’s ordinance helps set the standard for effective TNR ordinance language. Defining terms correctly and ensuring that community cat caregivers are exempt from ownership is key to a TNR ordinance. Without proper definitions, loopholes can allow animal control to continue impounding community cats and cause caregivers to be penalized for maintaining colonies.

The ordinance’s specific support of SNR is also an important step forward. When shelters are directly involved in the TNR process, impounded community cats can quickly leave the shelter and return to their outdoor homes. In a nation where most community cats are still killed in shelters, mainly because shelters don’t have space to accommodate them, this is an important model.

What we like about the ordinance:

  • 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.
  • Community cats are permitted to be “at-large.”
  • It encourages SNR by specifically stating that impounded community cats should be directed to a TNR program.
  • It adds a detailed section explaining the TNR program. The section states that:
    • TNR is the preferred method for addressing community cat populations.
    • Trapping of community cats is only permitted for purposes of TNR or to provide medical attention to a sick or injured cat.
    • Eartipped cats impounded by shelters will be returned to their location unless they need veterinary treatment.
    • Trapped eartipped cats will be released on-site unless veterinary care is required.