In New York State feral cats have the same status as domestic cats

It is important in terms of how the citizens of New York State relate to feral cats to realise (if they don’t already) that feral cats are considered as companion animals under section 350 of the New York State Agriculture and Market Law. The law protects animals and the word ‘animal’ in this statute refers to ‘every living creature except a human being’. That is pretty comprehensive and very clear.

This fundamental attitude towards feral cats in New York State under the law has profound consequences. A lot of people anywhere, not just in New York State or other states, don’t like feral cats. Where there are lax laws or enforcement of laws there are people who kill feral cats with impunity. They feel that they have the right to do it as feral cats are pests and vermin in their eyes.

New York State is more advanced in respect of animal welfare than almost all other states of the US except California. They are the first state to ban cat declawing state-wide. That was an amazing piece of legislation. A great statement of intent against the odds – the veterinarians fought the ban tooth and nail – that animals have rights.

If someone wants to shoot or poison a feral cat in New York State they will have to check the law first. There are some tightly phrased exceptions to killing feral cats but by and large you can’t and that includes professional pest exterminating businesses. So you can’t trap and kill them or poison them and so on as if they are vermin.

In addition to being morally correct, the law is actually common sense as you can’t be sure if you are shooting or poisoning a domestic cat or a feral cat. This will always be a barrier to the idea of exterminating feral cats. You are going to catch, in the programme, the odd domestic cat, someone’s pet, and when you do that you are committing a crime and you are open to being sued for compensation.

North Fork, NY, feral cat colony vandalism

Homemade feral cat shelters at North Fork colony
Homemade feral cat shelters at North Fork colony. Photo: Virginia Scudder.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There is a story online today about an established colony of feral cats at North Fork, NY. This is a place which is just at the end of Long Island. Volunteers have been providing TNR services to the colony for years. It has worked well.

Suddenly and anonymously, as far as I can gather, a person or persons ransacked the colony. They piled up the homemade feral cat shelters and then threw them away.

Virginia Scudder, the founder of North Fork Country Kids: Rescue and Preservation Through Pedagogy rescue group said that they had kept the colony secret to try and avoid what has happened. All the cats were neutered. It appears to have been well managed.

Scudder said that it is illegal, ‘against the law’, to stop feeding feral cats that have been fed for ten years as part of a TNR program. I am not sure what law she is referring to but it is probably the one I have mentioned at the top of the page. It would be an act of cruelty which falls under that law.

Comment: the person or persons who vandalised the work of the TNR volunteers has committed a crime. If the shelters have been removed and disposed of it is theft. Scudder said that the cat housing was worth hundreds of dollars.

Secondly, it is probably criminal damage. That, too, is a crime. And the criminals’ actions may be an act of cruelty against the cats as they have exposed the animals to the winter weather. The complication there is that the TNR volunteers can step in an mitigate the potential for animal cruelty.

The feral cats in this colony have good protection under the New York State Agriculture and Market Law. It is a question as to whether law enforcement have the motivation to do something about it.


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