Should cat rescuers be protected from themselves through laws?

Cat rescuers often use their hearts not their heads.

Cat rescuer

Successful and sustainable cat rescue has to be run like a business. There needs to be a business-like approach and this is the difficulty because many kind people who love cats want to help but on some occasions lack the necessary business skills and end up having a hard time coping emotionally .

Good intentions and a kind, tender heart are not enough if a rescue operation involves a largish number of cats.

I can envisage a cat rescuer being emotionally sandwiched between the desire to help unwanted cats and the difficulties of making it work because of financial constraints and the sheer workload.

Ruth Chiasson, the president of Thibodaux-based HOPE for Animals rescue says

“Their hearts are in the right place, but when you commit to rescuing an animal, you have to take care of it financially and physically”

I think she has made a good point and it begs the question whether cat lovers who are would-be cat rescuers sometimes need to be protected from themselves through state laws.

I am not a great fan of imposing laws on anyone least of all cat rescuers but when it goes wrong society has to fall back onto general animal welfare laws concerning animal cruelty when it might be better to have legislation which imposes some standards on cat rescue to ensure it is successful while protecting both cats and person. They need not be strict or harsh laws. They could be gentle and forms of guidance. Law can change behaviors. Law can be used proactively and they can protect animals (from abuse) and humans (from litigation).

I have just written a short article on laws about trapping cats. They were created for the citizens of Ulster County, USA. They are useful and protect both cats and the people doing the trapping.

We are seeing some unhappy failures in respect of cat rescue. The Westberry saga was a high profile case. She was being prosecuted under animal cruelty laws. There are many others.

Laws for guidance

What if there were some guidance laws in place which placed restrictions on what she would have been allowed to do? A law to limit the number of rescue cats perhaps and a regulation which stipulates that a cat rescuer needs to be registered. There are other potential conditions that could be obligatory before a person is allowed to register as a cat rescuer such as proving (s)he has a workable business plan and some start up funding. Most businesses are governed by extensive regulations.

These thoughts are, in fact, more likely to become a reality in order to put an end to cat rescuers who become hoarders. However, they won’t be successful in protecting cats unless something is also done to reduce the number of unwanted cats being created and that may also require legislation.

P.S. This article has been republished from 2014 with some slight amendments to include some fresh thoughts. Why? Because a lot of archived articles need to aired and brought to the front. That does not mean that this article deserves it. It means that previous articles should not become invisible.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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9 Responses

  1. M E King says:

    This is why I stopped at 4. Hardly a day goes by that a cat in need and within a few hours driving distance doesn’t need a home. All rescues and just pet owners must understand their first obligation is to the animals already in their care. It sucks it really does when you know that cat you don’t take will end up being euthanized. It kills you a bit inside. But I have four at home that need our resources and where do you stop. (Note I very nearly had cat five last week if only on a temp basis).
    Here is a suggestion if you want to get into rescue. Build your facility even if it’s a converted room in your house or garage and figure out how many cats you can house and take care of. If you can’t afford it out of your own pocket don’t get into rescue relying on the donations of others is a piss poor way to maintain and make sure any cats in your care are properly cared for. There is nothing wrong with fundraising just make sure you are not reliant on it. We’re not going to be able to regulate this unless they register as a charity. Friends, relatives need to be aware of when someone may be getting into deep and try to intervene and if that fails report them to AC before it becomes a disaster.

    • Michael Broad says:

      ME, I am not sure why your comment was held for moderation, it should not have been. Nice comment as usual.

  2. kylee says:

    Well I’m not sure, but I guess if it makes the Cats safer which is what most people want. I guess it would be hard to police. I think something needs to be done in light of JW Case and other extreme Hording. I dont know how those people cope with over 10. Myself It starts getting expensive and harder when you have over 6. You need to give each cat individual attention, if you dont have the means for the cats or kittens to be in a good condition.

    • I agree that policing it will be tricky but beyond a certain number of cats there needs to be systems in place and the authorities need to ensure that the person has the ability and facilities to carry out cat rescue to a decent standard. It is too difficulty for the average person but some of them think they can do it.

      • M E King says:

        Punitive laws that hold not only the cat hoarder accountable and mental illness is not necessarily a defense but also those that knew and should have reported it. Almost all of these cases are either reported repeatedly and ignored by the local authority or friends, relatives and co-workers are fully aware of the situation. Once you are aware of this kind of abuse and do nothing you become a part of it.
        This isn’t necessarily to get people tossed into prison it’s to stop animal abuse. Almost without fail an animal hoarder situation is also a financial disaster for any shelter or rescue that tries to help one the hoarder never has the resources even if ordered to pay restitution.
        Not only do the animal hoarders live in denial very often so do those that love them.
        It’s also personally appalling in hoarder/non-rescue associated cases how few if any of the cats are S/N bringing more lives into the world to live short horrible lives.

  3. anonymous says:

    If by “laws” you mean like those that already exist to limit the number of cats in a household, I can see how that would be almost impossible to enforce. Cat rescuers who turn into “hoarders” tend to be very isolated by choice and out of fear. They don’t let others into their homes. Often the cats are kept indoors. Under these circumstances how will such laws protect the individual from herself? Given the psychological dynamics my bet is that in reality they would contribute to, not alleviate, her pathology.

    • Thanks for that. What about registration of cat rescuers? They could be subject to annual spot check inspections (without notice). Anyone not registered can’t do cat rescue. The number could be limited to make inspections manageable.

  4. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    I’m all for any law to protect cats! I know most people don’t like more new laws but in the case of protecting animals I think there can’t be too many laws!

  5. Riverside Robyn says:

    In my city, anyone with 10 or more cats needs to obtain a cattery license. It is not expensive, but you are subject to periodic inspection by animal control officers. You will also be handed information that will let you know what is expected of you & what standards need to be met. IMHO, cat rescuers should not go it alone–they need financial support & some business savvy if their efforts are to be successful in the long run.

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