Monday was a big day in the Delaware feral cat caregiver community. On October 1, Delaware Governor John Carney, along with supporters of HOUSE BILL NO. 235, signed into law a bill that gives stray and feral cats the same level of protection as domestic cats. It also elevates the status of, and protects, feral cat caretakers. In general terms it is a law which supports feral cats and their caretakers.
Best Friends Animal Society, Brandywine Valley SPCA, Faithful Friends Animal Society, Delaware Humane Association, Forgotten Cats of Delaware along with the Office of Animal Welfare played a major role in getting this law (which is several years in the making) passed. It’s meant to benefit the veterinary community as well as the general public and the wildlife community.
A key advantage of HB 235 is that it removes the penalties levied against feral colony caregivers. The word “keeper” has been removed from the code and replaced with “free-roaming cat caretaker.” The change clarifies that those who provide food and veterinary care to free-roaming cats aren’t considered the owner.
The words of this law
If you are that way inclined, you can see how HOUSE BILL NO. 235 has changed (amended in parts) the existing law by clicking on the link below:
HB235 (opens a new tab or page)
Forgotten Cats shelter estimated back in 2016 that New Castle County could have as many as 10,000 feral cats roaming the community. It has taken more than four years for State Rep. Michael Mulrooney to get the legislation approved because it was a complicated process. The chart below shows how many cats will never be born theoretically, thanks to sterilization.
HB235 becoming law will allow animal shelters to create and support a sterilization and vaccination program for any cat, regardless of whether the cat is tame or feral. Shelters will be able to house strays for longer than the current period required under Delaware law.
The protection giving feral cats the same rights as family cats means that no longer can cat haters go out and trap/kill ownerless cats and not face consequences for their action. TNR programs where the cats are ear tipped before being released will allow shelters to keep a record of what cats have been spayed/neutered and vaccinated.
Screenshot and video courtesy WITN22 News.
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