Animals and the Law: NY Gov. Cuomo Vetoes TNR Bill

Happy National Cat Day?

w:User:Stavrolo [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

w:User:Stavrolo [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed the TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) bill, which would have improved the state’s Animal Population Control Program (APCP) by allowing eligible non-profit entities to receive funding for the trapping, neutering, vaccinating and returning of feral cats.

A feral cat is defined in New York as “domesticated cats that were formerly owned and that have been abandoned and that are no longer socialized, as well as offspring of such cats”(1).  There are tens of millions of feral cats across the United States.(2) Currently, APCP does not provide grants for the TNR of feral cats; only cats and dogs owned by New York residents who are on public assistance or who have adopted their pet are eligible for the spay and neuter services.(3)

Trap-Neuter-Return is when “members of a cat colony are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, eartipped, returned to their homes on the street, and cared for there to live out their lives without reproducing and adding to the overall feral cat population.”(5) According to almost all animal advocates, trap-neuter-return is a proven effectual. Alley Cat Allies, a nonprofit dedicated to the humane care and protection of cats, has published some known successes of TNR(6), including:

  • In 2004, approximately 175 feral cats were living along a popular hiking and biking trail in Foster City, Calif. in the San Francisco Bay Area. The City of Foster City, the Homeless Cat Network, and the community decided to join forces to humanely stabilize this colony of cats, and Project Bay Cat was formed. The Homeless Cat Network’s volunteers undertook an intensive TNR effort, with two private veterinary hospitals providing spay/neuter and vaccinations for the cats. As of 2013, 95% of the cats living along the trail were spayed/neutered, and the colony size had reduced by 53% through natural attrition and adoption of socialized stray cats and kittens.
  • In 2007, a group in Chicago called Cats In My Yard starting carefully tracking its Trap-Neuter-Return efforts and the number of cats living in 19 colonies. The colonies are all close together and contained within one large city block bordered by busy main streets. Between 2007 and 2013, 153 cats in the 19 colonies went through TNR. In 2013, a total of 70 cats remained in these colonies. In seven years, the cat population in this neighborhood decreased by 55%.

“It is very important to have all feral cats spayed/neutered because it is the only 100-percent effective way to prevent unwanted kittens,” says Aimee Christian, ASPCA Vice President of Spay/Neuter Operations.(4)

Animal advocates have been urging Gov. Cuomo to sign the TNR bill into law, but unfortunately we were not successful. While this doesn’t mean TNR won’t ever occur in New York — many individuals and nonprofits are using this humane method to great success — it does mean that we may not be as effective as we could with controlling and reducing feral cat populations.

So in honor of National Cat Day, please take a moment and learn how you can be an advocate for feral cats, who need people like you to help. NYC Feral Cat Initiative has information on workshops where you can become a TNR certified caretaker. Please click here to learn more.


(1) ECL 11-0103(6)(e)(2).

(2) http://www.aspca.org/adopt/feral-cats-faq#1 (ASPCA FAQ).

(3) Ag. and Mkts Law § 117-a(3)(b).

(4) See ASPCA FAQ.

(5) http://www.animalalliancenyc.org/wordpress/2013/07/why-taming-feral-kittens-can-be-a-good-idea/.

(6) http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=1612.

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