Alley Cat Allies sent the following letter to the city council of Waconia, Minnesota, to protect indoor and community cats from dangerous amendments to the local city code. Right now, Waconia is proposing adding cats into laws crafted for dog-related issues, which leaves cats open to dangerous requirements that don’t acknowledge their nature and place in our communities.

We are offering our expertise and support in establishing lifesaving Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) in Waconia and crafting an ordinance that protects community cats, caregivers, and TNR.

Dear Mayor Waldron and Waconia City Council:

On behalf of Alley Cat Allies and our supporters in and around Waconia, I am writing to ask for the immediate rejection of dangerous proposed requirements for cats in amendments to Chapter 560 of the Waconia City Code. These include requiring cats to be leashed or licensed, which is impossible to enforce and fails to acknowledge community cats, or unowned cats who live outdoors. Alley Cat Allies asks that the City of Waconia instead enacts effective, lifesaving policies like Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

Alley Cat Allies is the leader of the global movement to protect cats and kittens. Founded in 1990, we work toward a world where every cat is valued, and every community has policies and programs to defend them. Alley Cat Allies regularly educates and acts with lawmakers, animal shelters, and the public to change attitudes and advance laws and policies that best serve the interests of cats.

We want Waconia to know that dogs and cats are very different animals with very different relationships to people and our communities. Cats cannot be slapdash inserted into laws tailored to dog-related concerns.

Laws requiring cats to be leashed are ineffective, impossible to enforce, and incompatible with TNR, the only humane and effective approach to community cats. If Waconia agrees to a leash requirement for cats, it will only result in cats being impounded and killed and/or the penalization of compassionate Waconia residents spending their own time, energy, and money to care for community cats.

Under a leash law, any cat not wearing a leash outdoors is a visible target. There is no reliable way to distinguish between a community cat, an owned cat allowed outdoors, and an indoor-only cat who is unintentionally outdoors. All of these cats will therefore be at risk, along with the people who care for them.

Similarly, community cats do not have owners to provide them with licenses or tags or to clean up after them if they defecate on public or private properties. However, the proposed amendments will include cats in laws regulating these matters for dogs. The penalty could only fall on caregivers of community cats, who are not the cats’ owners but good Samaritans providing a community service.

If Waconia’s goal is to address community complaints or disputes, that is better accomplished through facilitating discussions in pursuit of positive outcomes for the cats and people involved. If the goal is to address populations of cats outside, The City of Waconia needs to know that community cats are at home outdoors, and it is their natural environment. They have no owner to leash them, and they generally cannot be adopted into indoor homes.

Instead, the city is best served by supporting TNR and low- and no-cost spay and neuter.

Through TNR, community cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped for identification, and returned to their outdoor homes. TNR stops the breeding cycle so no new kittens are born, improves cats’ health, and eliminates mating behaviors such as yowling, spraying, roaming, and fighting. TNR also reduces shelter intake and calls to animal services, providing immediate community benefits and saving taxpayer dollars.

For all the reasons above, Alley Cat Allies again urges the City of Waconia to reject the proposed amendments and offers our support to draft new language that protects community cats, community cat caregivers, and TNR. We also offer our support to help Waconia establish an effective TNR program and further humane policies. Thank you for your consideration.