Guide/How-to| Cats and the Law, Spay/Neuter, Trap-Neuter-Return

The most important thing you can do for cats is to be their voice in the legislative process. You must communicate your support (or disagreement) of laws and policies that affect cats to your elected officials. The top priority of most elected officials is being re-elected. If they are aware that many of their constituents are paying attention to their stance on animal welfare, they are more likely to vote as their constituents wish.

Be sure to personalize your letter or email to include the legislator’s full name and title. If available, also include the name or number of the proposed ordinance. If that information is not available, clearly identify the issue in the first paragraph. Remember to be polite and professional in all your communications, even if the legislator does not agree with you. Being rude and disrespectful will not help save cats’ lives.

Remember to send a letter to every elected official. For example, if there are six councilmembers, you should send six personalized letters.

Letter on Feeding Bans

Download: Word file

[Date]
[Official’s Name and Title]
[Official’s Address]

Dear ____:

My name is _____. I have lived in ____ for ___ years. I am writing to urge the ____ (city council/commission) to reject a feeding ban. Feeding bans undermine the only successful method of addressing the community cat (also known as feral cat) population: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

Feeding bans will not decrease the community cat population because community cats do not depend on people feeding them to survive. As scavengers, cats will find food in garbage cans and dumpsters. Cats are territorial, bonded to their surroundings, and will not leave simply because compassionate people can no longer legally feed them. Ultimately, a feeding ban will result in cats roaming farther to find food and digging through people’s trash. This can lead to an increase in calls to animal control.

If ____ (CITY/COUNTY) seeks to manage the community cat population, then TNR is the only humane and effective solution. Community cats are generally not socialized to people, and therefore cannot live indoors. During TNR, cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped (the universal sign that a cat has been part of a TNR program), and returned to their outdoor homes. TNR stabilizes community cat populations, and, over time, colonies decrease in size. It stops the breeding cycle, so no new kittens are born, and eliminates mating behaviors, such as yowling, spraying, roaming, and fighting.

Feeding bans do not allow TNR to be carried out. The cats in our community will continue to have kittens, and the community cat population will increase. Please do not punish the good Samaritans in ____ (CITY/COUNTY) who spend their own time and money to carry out TNR and find homes for adoptable kittens.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Letter on Leash Laws

Download: Word file

[Date]
[Official’s Name and Title]
[Official’s Address]

Dear ____:

My name is _____. I have lived in ____ for ___ years. I am writing to express my concern with the ____ (city council/commission)’s proposed leash law for cats. In addition to increasing costs for the city, this new law will lead to more cats being killed in the local shelters and pounds where hundreds of cats are already killed.

This law will threaten any cat outside with impoundment, whether they are owned or unowned. This law is particularly dangerous to community cats, also known as feral cats, because they are unowned and do not have traditional “owners” to leash them. Their home is outdoors. Community cats are unsocialized and therefore, unadoptable, so upon impoundment, virtually 100% are killed.

If the goal is to manage our community cat population, please consider supporting Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) or programs that partially or fully subsidize spay and neuter services.

TNR is the only humane and effective way to stabilize the community cat population. During TNR, cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped for identification, and returned to their outdoor homes. The community cat population stabilizes and decreases over time. TNR stops the breeding cycle, so no new kittens are born, and eliminates mating behaviors, such as yowling, spraying, roaming, and fighting. I urge you to reject the proposed leash law and consider TNR instead to achieve the [CITY COUNCIL/COMMISSION’S] goal.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Letter on Licensing Requirements

Download: Word file

[Date]
[Official’s Name and Title]
[Official’s Address]

Dear ____,

My name is _____. I have lived in ____ for ___ years. I am writing to express my concern with the ____ [CITY COUNCIL/COMMISSIONS]’s consideration of a licensing requirement for cats. Placing a new tax on cat owners is not the way to help cats or our community. Passing this licensing law will not accomplish any of the stated goals.

  1. Licensing does not return more cats to their owners. Nationally, only 2% of impounded cats are reunited with their owners, and the introduction of cat licensing doesn’t improve recovery rates. More than 70% of cats who are brought to animal shelters are killed nationwide. As more cats are impounded due to a licensing law, even more will be killed, and fewer cats will be returning home.
  2. Licensing does not generate revenue. Licensing programs are notoriously expensive to implement and enforce. Since few people comply with cat licensing requirements, the program’s cost typically exceeds the revenue generated. Rather than contribute to the [CITY/COUNTY’S] budget, cats will remain unlicensed and taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill as more cats are impounded and killed.
  3. Licensing does not increase sterilizations or vaccinations. The best way to increase the number of pets who are spayed or neutered and vaccinated is to increase access to free or low-cost services. Studies have found that the primary reason that people don’t sterilize or vaccinate their pets is cost and access to clinics. Adding a licensing fee on top of these costs will only discourage these people from seeking veterinary care.

Finally, this proposed licensing law is incompatible with Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the only humane and effective approach to community cats. Community cats, also called feral cats, are unowned cats who live outdoors. Most community cats are not socialized or friendly to people, so they cannot be adopted and live indoors. During TNR, community cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped for identification, and returned to their outdoor homes. Since community cats do not have owners, a cat licensing requirement is a death sentence.

[CITY/COUNTY] doesn’t need a licensing law—it needs to follow a responsible path for its cats. Thank you for your time and consideration. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[You Contact Information]

Letter on Mandatory Spay/Neuter

Download: Word file

[Date]
[Official’s Name and Title]
[Official’s Address]

Dear ____,

My name is _____. I have lived in ____ for ___ years. I am writing to urge the ____ (city council/commission) not to pass a mandatory spay/neuter law. Such a law will not increase the number of sterilized animals in our community. Rather than spend more money on administering and enforcing another law, please consider expanding low-cost spay/neuter resources instead to achieve the (CITY COUNCIL/COMMISSION’S) goal.

I agree wholeheartedly that dogs and cats should be sterilized. However, there is no evidence that these laws are effective. One study showed that in homes where the income was $35,000 or higher, almost all cats (around 93%) were neutered, while 75% of unneutered cats live in homes where the income was less than $35,000. The lower-income owners who were interviewed primarily cited high cost as the reason for not neutering their cats. If you pass a mandatory spay/neuter law, you will be targeting people who are the least equipped to comply with it.

The second issue with mandatory spay/neuter laws is that the vast majority of the unsterilized animals in our area are feral and stray cats (also known as community cats). According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, only 3 percent of community cats are sterilized as opposed to 82% of all pet cats. These animals do not have owners, so this law will not reach them. Instead, it will discourage the good Samaritans who currently care for community cats since they may not be able to spay or neuter every cat—either because some are hard to trap or because they don’t have the funds—leading to fewer cats being neutered overall. Mandatory spay/neuter laws are counterproductive. To decrease the number of animals entering our shelters, please expand low-cost spay/neuter resources.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Letter on Trap-Neuter-Return

Download: Word file

[Date]
[Official’s Name and Title]
[Official’s Address]

Dear _____,

My name is _____. I have lived in ­­­_____ for _____ years. I am writing to express my support for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

TNR is the only humane and effective approach to community cats. Community cats, also known as feral cats, are unowned cats who live happy and healthy lives outdoors. Community cats are the same species as pet cats. However, since most community cats are not socialized or friendly to people, they cannot be adopted and live indoors. During TNR community cats are humanely trapped, taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped for identification, and, after recovery, are returned to their outdoor homes.

I am involved in the following ways to implement TNR in our community: ______.

Or

I am involved in the following ways to help protect and care for cats in our community: ______.

TNR is a community-based program that will benefit the cats and residents of ______. TNR stabilizes community cat populations by stopping the breeding cycle. TNR improves cats’ lives and benefits public health by relieving them of the constant stresses of mating and pregnancy and vaccinating them against rabies. TNR stops disruptive mating behaviors—like yowling, spraying, roaming, and fighting—so cats and people can coexist peacefully. Lastly, TNR saves taxpayer’s money by reducing shelter intake, shelter euthanasia, and calls of concern to animal control.

Hundreds of communities have adopted an official TNR ordinance or policy, and thousands more conduct grassroots, volunteer-led programs. These numbers continue to rise as more communities realize the outdated approach of catching and killing cats is cruel and ineffective. It’s time for the cats and residents of ______ to experience the many benefits of TNR firsthand.

Please see the enclosed materials for more information on the benefits of TNR.

(IF YOU INCLUDE EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS, SUCH AS FACT SHEETS AND STUDIES)

Thank you for your time and consideration. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]