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.



3 thoughts on “Petaluma’s Onerous Feral Cat Ordinance”

  1. — I live in Petaluma and was at the city council meeting at its second reading, second reading makes it law. I spoke against the ordinance. There was one city council member that did not vote for the ordinance the second time around, Mike Harris. Some very nice feral cat and just animal lovers convinced him to take another look at the ordinance (some elected officials DO listen).

    Thank you for putting this information on your website. Hopefully folks will take the time to help us out, get this revisited and turn it around. Folks, even if you don’t know where Petaluma is, please, please take a few moments and hanmmer our elected officials with some common sense.

    And no, I don’t tend to a feral cat colony. I know people who do, some have been doing it for many years.

  2. Laura, thank you for providing this forum for us and Mike(Zoomer),as always, thank you for your support. I also live in Petaluma and the past two years it has been difficult to say that with pride. We worked so hard for these animals, not only feral cats, but also the mute swans, bullfrogs, the otters, the foxes, anything that gets in the way of the docents. They want to kill every non-native species in the Petaluma Wetlands. It is shameful for our city government to support these heartless people. How could we, as residents of Petaluma, keep this city council in office. I will do everything in my power to change that in the next election. Please help Petaluma feral cats and help bring better treatment for our Petaluma animals. We need kinder hearts in Petaluma. We need a new city council for 2010. Thank you.

  3. I had someone email me asking what they are suppose to do as far as feeding and maintaining feral cats since the new ordinance went into effect. In response to asking what the process is now, the Petaluma Animal Service Manager’s response was “The code can be found on the city website and it explains the processn”. I read the code and the only thing I can find is… “Feral cats, and feeding or maintaining feral cats, within the city are hereby declared to be public nuisances, and a violation of this chapter, except for feeding or maintaining by an authorized feral cat care organization”. Since the City of Petaluma does not have an “authorized feral cat care organization”, I guess if you feed a feral cat in the City of Petaluma you can be in violation, fined and prosecuted. Maybe that won’t happen but that is what the ordinance says and the Mayor and majority approved it. There are several feral cats located in the City of Petaluma and to now, not allow them to be fed, is in effect, starving an animal to death and violates California Penal Code Section 597(b)…. Every person who…… deprives of necessary sustenance, drink…..or causes or procures any animal to be… deprived of necessary sustenance, drink….. is, for every such offense, guilty of a crime punishable as a misdemeanor or as a felony….. Apparently the Mayor and majority of the City Council are OK with this, go figure.

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