A person who regularly feeds a cat on their property is presumed to be the owner

The title to this post is very similar to the words used in an updated law concerning Plattsburgh, New York. The existing law is called Dogs and Cats at Large. The updating, carried out by an amendment to the law, states that “A person who regularly feeds a dog or cat on their property, is presumed to be the owner”. This change in the local law has been in discussion for a while.

David Rice Atchinson statue

In other words, if you leave out a bowl of food or water for stray cats on your property you are deemed to be responsible for that cat and any damage that he or she may cause.

In addition, it makes that person responsible for certain obligatory vaccinations and micro-chipping et cetera.

“Assigning ownership to feral cats to the humanitarians who assist in the TNR programs just because they trap, sterilize, vaccinate and feed these cats is misguided,” Councilor Moore said.

You can see that the purpose behind this rather Draconian law is to stop people getting involved in caring for stray and feral cats. It goes to the heart of the age-old problem about how to deal with feral cats in the community.

I’ve seen this sort of amendment discussed before but until now it has not been agreed by city or county councillors. I think that it is a very harsh rule and it is one that a lot of people will find very difficult to comply with because it goes against their consciences.

A lot of volunteer feral cat caregivers simply cannot help themselves in taking care of the welfare of these cats. It is the right thing to do. It is the moral thing to do and to stop doing it is hurtful both to the caregiver and the cat.

I don’t have much information about it in terms of the opinion of others because my source is an extract of an article on NBC 5 (I have since found the quote above on another site).

If the source is correct, one aspect of it which is perhaps defensible is that it applies to people feeling cats and dogs on their property. That is cats and dogs who wander into their backyard or frontyard. This would not normally apply to feral cat caregivers enganged in TNR, although it might on rare occasions.

I also think that it is quite a stretch of the imagination and of concepts regarding the law to grant the legal status of ownership of a cat if a person puts down a bowl of water for that cat. I don’t see how one connects the other. It would imply that, all of a sudden, a feral cat who has no owner and is a wild animal in effect, suddenly becomes a domestic cat owned by someone at home. It doesn’t work for me. I think that it is an artificial way of trying to stop people feeding stray and feral cats.

I don’t believe that it’ll be successful in the long term. It’s pretty well a given that across the country of America, TNR programs are the best way of dealing with stray and feral cats and should be supported by local authorities of all kinds.

There is also the important issue of enforcement. I think it’s impossible to enforce this law. Let’s think about it. A person feeds a dozen stray cats in her large backyard. Those cats then wander around outside of her property. How is a law enforcement officer going to identify those cats as being fed by a particular person?

The cats may not go back onto the caregiver’s property and in sufficient numbers it is quite difficult to distinguish between one cat and another with certainty. In applying the law you have to have certainties. It would mean identifying individual cats with certainty. I do not think that that is entirely feasible.

Source: NBC5 – only a short extract is available and the video failed to play plus the page is inaccessible to Europeans! I used a cached version of the page.


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