Advocates Continue to Oppose PA Town’s Anti-Cat Ordinance


May 12, 2011: Since the Jane Velez Mitchell show aired a segment on HLN cable network about the Monessen cats on May 6, advocates have continued the fight to save the cats. 

The next city council meeting is May 18, 2011. Stay tuned for more details. 

Follow the fight to save the Monessen cats on Facebook

For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Update April 28, 2011: Several dozen people came to the Pennsylvania mill town of Monessen yesterday to protest a harsh anti-cat ordinance that so far has meant the deaths of nearly 3 dozen cats, simply for being outside. 


Let Monessen’s mayor and city officials know that you want humane policies for cats. Follow this effort on Facebook

Go to council meetings, send letters or call town officials listed below and urge them stop the needless, costly and cruel roundup and killing of cats simply for being outside. Urge them instead to (1) implement a program to have owners tag or micro-chip cats and make sure owners are contacted if a cat gets loose so the animal can be returned, and (2) implement a trap neuter return program and allow homeless cats or feral cats to live in colonies under the care of a caregiver. These steps will go further in reducing feral or stray cat populations than catch and kill. Studies prove this.

Please be polite! You will get further if you are polite and can do damage to your cause if you are rude and angry.   

Mark Shire, City Solicitor, Shire Law Firm 724-684-8881;

Mary Jo Smith, Mayor; John Harhai, City Clerk, 724-684-9712

Council Members–(contact thru City Clerk at 724-684-9712 or write:  

1 Wendell Ramey Way
Eastgate 8, Suite 400
Monessen, PA 15063

Dr. Martin Dudas

Josh Retos

Geral Saksun

Lucille Dalfanso

For more information on the ordinance, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Original report: The town of Monessen, Pennsylvania passed an ordinance last August, 2010 that declares any cat found running loose outdoors to be a public nuisance. (A copy is attached below for downloading.) Just for being loose outside. 

February, 2011 amendments (attached below) to the ordinance command animal control to impound cats running at large; animal control is not required to return the cat to his or her family but may do so if the owner’s identity can be "readily" ascertained. Animal control can decide not to return the cat particularly if the cat or other cats belonging to the owner have run at large previously.

The amendments also state the owner can then claim the cat upon showing proof of ownership and rabies vaccination and payment of a $50 fee. If the cat is not returned to the owner, the cat is to be placed with the "Humane Society" for euthanasia.

It is not clear what is required for proof of ownership. There may also be fines between $75-$300 for violations of the ordinance as it relates to cats and restitution.

Nowhere is there provision for spay/neuter and return of cats for care in a managed colony.

The result of such a harsh ordinance has not been to increase owner responsibility but has instead meant the deaths of dozens of cats – so far.     

CA Court Stops City Support for TNR

A California Superior Court has ordered the City of Los Angeles to halt what was described as an effort to "secretly and unofficially" promote TNR or trap neuter return, the practice of trapping feral cats, spaying/neutering as well as vaccinating them, and returning them to a feral cat colony cared for by a volunteer caregiver.

Under a TNR program, kittens and cats that are not actually feral but are abandoned pets forced to live on the streets or in the wild, may be socialized and placed for adoption.  

Studies show that TNR works as a humane means of controlling feral cat populations. The alternative, the inhumane catch and kill, has not worked to reduce numbers of feral cats. The use of TNR is on the rise.  

In 2005, in fact, the City of Los Angeles Board of Animal Services adopted TNR as the "preferred method of dealing with feral cat populations." According to the allegations in the complaint, the Department then supported TNR, including discounting spay/neuter operations for feral cats, supporting new feral cat colonies on city property that used TNR, refusing to accept feral cats at city animal shelters, refusing to issue permits to trap feral cats that would be killed, and generally promoting TNR programs. The court found the City’s support of TNR" pervasive, albeit informal and unspoken.’"

The court found, however, that the City has not complied with the California Environmental Quality Act, Cal Pub Resources Code § 21000, et seq. before initiating this support for TNR. That law requires the City to assess the environmental impact and consider alternatives and mitigation measures.

The City will now initiate the process of complying with CEQA before it can continue support of TNR programs. It is a public process, and Animal Law Coalition will keep you informed of how you can participate to support TNR in the City of Los Angeles.  

Use TNR Not Starvation to Control Feral Cat Populations

Indianapolis and Rhode Island are examples of local governments which have turned away from bans on feeding feral or stray cats. Instead, they have embraced laws regulating and supporting managed colonies of feral and stray cats.

But in the fight for humane treatment for animals, sometimes it seems as if it’s one step forward and two steps back. Apparently stray cats were getting into the garbage and making a mess. Thus the solution of starving them?

Unfortunately, yes, according to bans on feeding feral or stray cats in dozens of cities and towns like Britton, Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Clermont, Iowa; Ormond Beach, Florida; Portsmouth, Virginia; Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Grand Saline, Texas; and Waukegan, Illinois The Honolulu City and County Parks Department has banned the feeding of homeless cats in all city parks.

Starving is not a humane or effective solution to overpopulation of feral or stray cats. As one observer pointed out, "I don’t like homelessness, but I don’t think starving homeless people would be humane." Nor would it end homelessness. Cats tend to live in colonies. If food is eliminated in one colony, as one animal rescuer noted, "Any policy that bans feeding of these colonies will likely disperse these cats throughout our community, and the feral cat population will increase dramatically."

Many of these counties and municipalities also rely on trap and kill as another way to try to reduce populations of homeless cats. This method simply does not work and is very costly.

The Animal Law Coalition supports Trap-Neuter-Return, a humane method of reducing feral or stray cat populations.

What is TNR?

Alley Cat Allies, a rescue group dedicated to these cats, describes Trap-Neuter-Return as "a full management plan in which stray and feral cats already living outdoors in cities, towns, and rural areas are humanely trapped, then evaluated, vaccinated, and sterilized by veterinarians. Kittens and tame cats are adopted into good homes. Healthy adult cats too wild to be adopted are returned to their familiar habitat under the lifelong care of volunteers. It is important to note that variations of TNR exist in many places-variations involving the extent of veterinary intervention, the range of official sanction, and the level of ongoing care. The one element that does not vary is sterilization of feral cats to break the cycle of reproduction."

Another advantage to TNR is that once they are neutered, cats exhibit much less nuisance behavior such as noise from mating and fighting and spraying by males to mark territory. The cats do retain, however, their ability to control rodents, a significant factor in many urban and rural areas.

TNR lowers euthanasia rates by reducing shelter intake of cats. The cats already in shelters become easier to place when they no longer compete with endless litters of cute kittens for homes.

Studies on the effectiveness of TNR

In the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA),  Julie Levy, DVM reported on her now famous study of feral cats on the University of Central Florida campus over a period of 11 years. A program that included sterilization and an aggressive adoption program as well as TNR reduced the free roaming cat population by 66%.

The study’s conclusion: "A comprehensive long-term program of neutering followed by adoption or return to the resident colony can result in reduction of free-roaming cat populations in urban areas."

In convincing government authorities to support TNR, it is important to note despite claims to the contrary, feral and stray cats do not typically carry diseases. It has been suggested these cats should be eradicated because they spread highly contagious diseases such as rhinotrachitis, feline AIDS, and rabies. The evidence is to the contrary. Rabies is not commonly found in stray or feral cats.

In speaking at a hearing before the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, Dr. Julie Levy stated, "In 2002, cats represented less than 4% of the rabid animals identified in the state…. Regardless, feral cat TNR programs routinely immunize cats against rabies." Dr. Levy also addressed other infectious diseases such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) by stating that, "A report published from the University of Florida on more than 1,800 feral cats showed only 4% to be infected with feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus, which is similar to that found in pet cats."

A study conducted by Stanford University’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) found virtually no risk to humans from feral cats. EHS also concluded, after consultation with the Santa Clara County Health Department and Stanford’s Department of Comparative Medicine, that there was a general consensus that feral cats pose virtually no health and safety risk to individuals.

The Florida study has not documented the only TNR success: The Stanford Cat Network, a TNR program on the university campus, showed a decline in feral cats which numbers ranged from 500-1,500, to now less than 50. 

As Alley Cat Allies reports on its website, in 1996 Molly Tominack began feeding a cat outside of her office on a military base. She attracted other cats to her feeding station. In time she organized several other people interested in feeding cats on the base. But Molly also began trapping the cats, arranged for their sterilization and adopting out those kittens or cats who were not feral. In the first year 60 kittens were born into colonies totaling about 60 cats. In the second year only 3 cats were born. No cats were born in the third year.

A TNR program on the waterfront in Newburyport, Massachusetts has proven so successful, there are now only one cat is living there instead of the 300 that present at the start of the program. No kittens have been born there in years.

A TNR program at Texas A&M University quickly reduced the feral and stray cat population by one third; no kittens have been born there for awhile.

Audrey Boag, author of Feral Friends, A Guide to Living With Feral Cats, gathered data over a ten year period from the major shelters in the Denver metropolitan area including nearby suburbs. The shelters keep better than average records on cat entries and exits. Since the advent of TNR programs in the early 1990’s, there has been a dramatic decline in the shelter intake numbers for cats.

Animal People magazine which published the study, concluded: "Return to Owner and adoption are clearly NOT responsible for the 40% drop in cats received since significant trap/neuter/return projects started in the Denver area in 1991-1992. What is happening in Denver, plain and simple, is that feral cats are no longer being born in great numbers (owner surrenders down 40%), hence unwanted litters are no longer turning up in yards, sheds, basements, etc in great numbers, and hence free roaming adult cats are no longer turning up as often (24% fewer)."

Go here for information about a study proving the effectiveness of TNR on Prince Edward Island that was published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal in 2002. 

For more, read, "Why Feral Eradication Won’t Work", by Sarah Hartwell; Zaunbrecher, K., & R. Smith, "Neutering of Feral Cats as an Alternative to Eradication Programs," Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, 203, No 3, 8/1/93, 449-452; "A Model for Humane Reduction of Feral Cat Populations", by Michelle S. Chappell, DVM, published in the California Veterinarian September/October 1999, about the use of TNR in San Diego; and this report by the National Pet Alliance and Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc. calling for funding of TNR programs in Santa Clara. 

Increasingly, governments are recognizing the value of TNR in reducing feral or stray cat populations.

A TNR program in Maricopa County, Arizona, called the "Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project" was so successful the County Board of Supervisors issued a resolution stating: "Maricopa County Board of Supervisors does hereby endorse non- lethal trap-neuter-return, when accompanied by ongoing feral cat management, as the most effective, humane method of controlling feral cat populations in Maricopa County and in so doing better provides for the welfare of these animals while better serving our communities’ public health and safety concerns."

In Hamilton, New Jersey, after 5 years of TNR the township health department statistics show an 80% decline in the number or euthanized cats. The statistics reveal fewer strays are brought to the shelter each year. Township spokesperson Rich McClellan attributed the decreasing number of cats killed in shelters to the work of TNR caregivers.

More and more state and local officials have also realized TNR not only works to reduce feral cat populations, it saves money.

One Pennsylvania study followed for six years one person who began feeding 12 feral cats. The results are as follows:

Adults: 26 – 2 euthanized, 5 kept, 12 adopted, 1 available for adoption, 6
Kittens: 86 – 4 available for adoption, 1 euthanized, 5 died, 76 adopted.
After 6 years, 4 cats need to be trapped: – 1 fertile female, 3 unaltered males.
Of the 6 TNR’s: 4 still seen, 1 dead, 1 recaptured and living in her house

The study also illustrated how one TNR program saved the state $6,600,000. There were 3,300 cats spayed/neutered under the program. Had those cats not been sterilized and the 2,200 females produced 100 kittens, there would have been an additional 220,000 cats roaming around. If the state had tried to eliminate these animals through a trap and eradicate program, it would have cost the state $6,600,000 which would include $30 per trap for several days, care and shelter for three days in the event the cats belonged to someone, and disposal.

Add to that number the cost savings from the hundreds of other individuals who started TNR throughout the state at no cost to the government.

Orange County, Florida, implemented a TNR program for two and a half years from 1995 through 1998. Previously, when they received a feral cat complaint, they sent an officer to trap the cats, held the animals for the mandatory waiting period, then euthanized them. This cost $105 per cat. By contrast, allowing volunteers to trap the cats and then providing free spay/neuter and vaccination services cost $56 per cat, a savings of $109,172 over the length of the study (2228 cats).

In New Jersey one official commented, "It’s actually more expensive to have animal control officers go out and find these cats and have them euthanized than it is to have members of these (cat welfare) groups trap, neuter and release them." According to New Jersey officials, trapping and killing a cat can cost a township between $75 and $125 each, while TNR costs about $50 and is paid for by volunteer organizations.

Go here for a look at successful TNR programs in New York City, Cape May, New Jersey, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and San Francisco, among others. 

State and local governments have seen the benefit of TNR, and many have decided to help fund it.

In 1993 New Hampshire passed a law providing money for a network of private veterinarians to perform low-cost spaying and neutering. Euthanasia has since dropped by 75%, according to Peter Marsh, director of STOP, Solutions to Overpopulation of Pets, the Concord, N.H., nonprofit group that helped create the law. A copy of that law, N.H. Sec. 437-A.8, is in our Resources section.

San Diego launched a countywide TNR program in 1992. The euthanasia rates for feral and domestic cats dropped by 40% in the first two years.

San Francisco’s SFSPCA instituted TNR citywide, and the euthanasia rates for cats were reduced by over 70% percent in six years.

The State of Illinois has passed Anna’s law or the Illinois Public Health and Safety Animal Population Control Act. A copy is in our Resources section.

Anna’s Law provided for a program to support the spay/neuter of dogs and cats and states, in particular: "A resident of this State who is managing a feral cat colony and who humanely traps feral cats for spaying or neutering and return is eligible to participate in the program provided the trap, sterilize, and return program is recognized by the municipality or by the county, if it is located in an unincorporated area. The sterilization shall be performed by a voluntarily participating veterinarian or veterinary student under the supervision of a veterinarian. The co-payment for the cat or dog sterilization procedure and vaccinations shall be $ 15."

Like New Hampshire’s 1993 law, Anna’s law in Illinois provides funding for veterinarians to perform spay/neuter.

Also in Illinois a state law approved in August, 2005 raises $2 million a year for clinics from pet-licensing fees. There is a provision in Anna’s Law that allows taxpayers to check off on their tax return to make a contribution to the Pet Population Control Fund which provides low cost spay/neuter. There is currently pending in Illinois, H.B. 3552, that provides a tax exemption for veterinary supplies and medication used in spay/neuter or the aftercare.

Other state and local governments not only assist in funding spay/neuter for feral or stray cats but also promote managed colonies.

In Indianapolis the city and Marion County decided to repeal the ban on feeding feral or stray cats. The city and county decided to try TNR instead. The City-county passed an ordinance establishing TNR to care, protect and break the breeding cycle of unowned cats. The vote passed 26-1. This ordinance makes it legal for the city-county’s designated agency, IndyFeral, to trap feral cats, sterilize them and return them to their managed TNR colony where a caretaker provides care, food and shelter. Caregivers must register their feral or stray cat colonies. The ordinance provides standards for the care of the cats including spay/neuter and vaccinations. A copy of the complete ordinance is in our Resources section, but the pertinent provisions are as follows:

Sec. 531-205. Care for unmanaged colonies prohibited.
It shall be unlawful for a person to provide food, water or shelter to a colony of free-roaming cats, unless:
(1) The colony is a managed colony, registered with the animal care and control division or its designee; or
(2) The food, water or shelter is provided in conjunction with the implementation of trap, neuter, and return methodology as set forth in section 531-209 of this chapter.
(G.O. 100, 2005, § 2)

Sec. 531-209. Managed free-roaming cats.
(a) The animal care and control division or its designee, in order to encourage the stabilization of the free-roaming cat population in the city, may:
(1) Trap any free-roaming cat in a humane manner;
(2) Have the cat surgically sterilized, ear-tipped, and vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian; and
(3) Release the cat to animal care and control for adoption or other disposition in accordance with law, or to a colony caretaker who will maintain the cat as part of a managed colony of free-roaming cats.
(b) The enforcement authority may impound free-roaming cats in violation of this chapter and dispose of the cats in accordance with section 531-731. Any free-roaming cat impounded by the enforcement authority that bears an appropriate ear-tipping indicating it belongs to a managed colony may, at the discretion of the animal care and control division, be returned to its managed colony unless illness or injury present an imminent danger to public health or safety.
(G.O. 100, 2005, § 3)

Sec. 531-210. Colony caretaker responsibilities.
(a) Colony caretakers shall abide by standard guidelines devised by the animal care and control division or its designee regarding the provision of food, water, shelter and veterinary care for cats within the managed colony.
(b) Colony caretakers shall have a licensed veterinarian evaluate the health of all trapped free-roaming cats. Seriously ill or injured cats with no reasonable prognosis for humane rehabilitation for survival outdoors will be humanely euthanized.
(c) A person who violates any provision of this section shall be punishable as provided in section 103-3 of this Code; provided, however, a fine imposed for the first such violation shall not be less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00); subsequent or continued violations caretaker’s removal from management of the managed colony, or the designee’s removal from the program.
(G.O. 100, 2005, § 3)

IndyFeral charges colony caregivers $20 per cat for this service, compared to approximately $120 per cat to trap and kill under the previous system.

Councilor for the 3rd District, Jim Bradford (R), said, "TNR through IndyFeral is a good program because it works to humanely and effectively reduce the feral cat population. It doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything. Considering cutbacks in public services, IndyFeral has worked out a great program that doesn’t cost the city money."

Dr. Marcie Short DVM, an IndyFeral volunteer vet who practices at Allisonville Animal Hospital, said of her support of the TNR ordinance, "From a vet viewpoint, I feel that other things that have been done, like trap and kill, trap and find homes, or trying to collect these ferals, hasn’t been successful. We continue to have a huge feral cat population.

"With TNR we see improvement in the quality of life for the animals. Since I started volunteering [three years ago] the colonies of cats we have seen are consistently healthier with fewer upper respiratory problems for instance and better quality of life."

"Before this ordinance, the act of feeding feral cats was a finable infraction; however, feeding these cats is a proven way to start managing them."

"Now people … can take care of them legally with this ordinance in place and don’t have to stay under the radar. They are both going to be there … the cats and people feeding them. That’s going to happen whether the ordinance is in place or not."

"One of the things I worry about among my fellow professionals is the concern that we’re taking money, clients and patients away from private clinics, but these are animals that aren’t ever going to get to a clinic. These are not paying patients that are going to decrease client numbers anywhere. I believe, as … vets our purpose is not to just take care of animals that have owners, but to take care of the animals that don’t have anyone. We should be taking the lead to find ways to ensure these homeless animals are treated humanely."

Brevard County, Florida has an ordinance that regulates and supports managed feral or stray cat colonies.  Salt Lake City, Baltimore, Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) and Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas) have passed  ordinances supporting TNR for feral cats.

In 2006 Rhode Island enacted a measure finding (1) An unacceptable number of healthy, but abandoned cats are euthanized annually in Rhode Island. (2) Due to the large number of stray and abandoned cats, euthanasia is not a cost effective, acceptable or ethical solution to the threats to public health and safety posed by large populations of stray, feral or homeless cats. Sec. 4-24-2.

The new law requires, with limited exceptions, the spay/neuter of all cats. The bill then defines owner of a cat to include anyone who feeds it for 60 days. §4-24-3(c In effect, Rhode Island has required those who feed feral or stray cats and manage their colonies to spay/neuter them. Rhode Island has also provided local governments can set up a system to permit those who feed and manage feral cat colonies. The Rhode Island law offers assistance, funding low cost spay/neuter programs. §4-24-13

Go here and here for information about the spate of New Jersey towns that have adopted ordinances approving TNR just in the last year.  

Let us know if there is a local government in your area that could benefit from assistance in implementing a TNR plan to reduce and manage feral or stray cat populations.

Petaluma’s Onerous Feral Cat Ordinance

Update Oct. 20: The Petaluma, California city council declined to make any of the suggested changes to its new trap neuter return program.

For more on the city’s new ordinance that some say will unnecessarily and unduly burden cat caregivers, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below. 

Original report: The City of Petaluma, California has passed what is described by many as an "onerous" ordinance for feral cats. It is offered as a trap neuter return program.

Under the ordinance only registered, 501c3 or similar non-profits may maintain feral cat colonies.  Each organization must maintain liability insurance "as specified by the City of Petaluma Risk Management office naming the City of Petaluma and the Petaluma Community Development Commission and their officials, officers, employees, agents, and volunteers as additional Insureds".

Each organization must establish a "colony tracking system and provide an annual report to Petaluma Animal Services. Annual reports shall include colony location, number of current members, new colony members, the number of cats sterilized, the number of cats removed for adoption, and public education efforts". 

That’s not all.

Every time the organization has a cat sterilized or vaccinated, proof must be provided to Animal Services. Animal Control officers can really inspect all colony records upon demand, simply by claiming there is an "alleged violation of law" or if there is a complaint.

Does Petaluma’s Animal Services keep and provide the taxpayers with such detailed records of animals impounded, sterilized, vaccinated, adopted or fostered, euthanized or killed, and its "public education efforts"?

Also, under this ordinance Animal Services must agree to the proposed "standardized feeding station" and "feeding program".

There is no requirement that Animal Services will work with the feral cat caregivers by returning impounded cats or cats found on someone’s property or in an unauthorized location. There is no requirement that Animal Services must work with feral cat caregivers to resolve complaints, allow them time to relocate or otherwise handle cats that may pose a nuisance. Instead, the ordinance allows Animal Services simply to continue to seize and kill cats they deem a "nuisance" or if they are found in city parks or other designated areas.  The ordinance almost encourages citizens to sue feral cat caregivers if feeding the cats "adversely affects such person’s property interests".  

This ordinance plainly discourages TNR, adding unnecessary cost and effort and creating a risk of liability few people can afford. It is not consistent with an Animal Services agency that cares about the lives and health of the animals in the community. This ordinance is more about local government controlling the lives of its citizens.


Go here to find email and phone numbers for the mayor, city attorney and council members. Urge them to adopt a true TNR program that does not over burden feral cat caregivers and which will help control populations of feral cats but do so humanely.