Terra Haute Ordinance is Not Trying to Starve Cats

feral catThe Terre Haute, Indiana City Council has voted 7-1 to approve an ordinance implementing a trap neuter return program for feral cats.  The ordinance, however, has been touted in the media as a ban on feeding or caring for feral cats.

There is a ban on providing food, water and shelter to free roaming cats, meaning those that are "homeless, stray, wild or untamed"….unless they are part of a managed colony that is registered with the city.  The good news is that it will be free to register a colony.  To maintain a free roaming cat colony, a caregiver must humanely trap the cats, have them surgically sterilized, ear tipped and vaccinated against rabies, and then return them to the colony.  Any free roaming cat that is trapped or impounded can only be returned to a managed colony that has a registered caregiver.

Violations can mean a fine up to $300.

The idea is not to starve or kill cats but allow them to live as free roaming cats but part of a colony in which they receive proper care. The hope is TNR will reduce the numbers of free roaming cats.

For more on TNR…

For a look at one lawyer’s efforts to get New Jersey cities to adopt TNR…


Beverly Hills Adopts TNR

feral cat

Update Oct. 1: After first threatening to jail at least one feral cat caregiver for feeding cats, the City of Bevery Hills has now adopted TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) as a way to control feral cat populations and reduce citizen complaints about the cats.

Under the new law feral cat caregivers must obtain a free permit to care for and conduct trap neuter release in Beverly Hills. The permit must be kept current. Caregivers or TNR partners must have liability insurance and agree to indemnify the city for any liability. Caregivers must agree to follow regulations and guidelines issued for the TNR program.

The new ordinance bans anyone from feeding and trapping feral cats in "alleys or public property" unless it is done under a TNR permit.  Permission must be obtained from private property owners, in writing, before TNR can take place on their property.

But permitted caregivers are required to provide regular and sufficient food and water for cats in the approved colony. Approved feeding devices must be used when feeding on public property. A 6′ barrier must surround feeding stations on private property or the caregiver must use a device that prevents other animals from accessing the food. All feeding stations must be identified with an approved sticker. Cats can only be fed  between 06:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. or sunset, and before 8:00 p.m. or sunset the food must be removed.

Traps must be placed at the location identified in the permit and identified with an approved sticker. Traps must also be placed only at certain times, between sunset and 2:30 a.m. and must be removed by then as well because traps cannot be left unattended.

Areas used for trapping and feeding should be kept clean and sanitary.  

The cats must be treated humanely. Caregivers must make efforts to trap every cat in the colony and have them sterilized and also when they require vaccinations or appear ill or injured. Kittens are to be placed for adoption. The cats’ health must be evaluated by a veterinarian and give a rabies and FVRCP vaccines and any other recommended by the vet. Cats who appear to have FIV or FeLV must be tested and if positive cannot be returned to the colony.  

Records including veterinary records must be kept for each cat. Records concerning the colony must include number of cats, number successfully sterilized, defleaed and ear-tipped, and adopted. The colony and records must be available for inspection.

Caregivers are required to address complaints about cats and work with the city as requested on feral cat "issues".

Original report: The City of Beverly Hills has cited Katherine Varjian twice in the past year for feeding feral cats. 

The city believes feeding feral cats violates the municipal law and should subject Varjian to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine or both.

The problem is that there is no longer an ordinance in effect in Beverly Hills against feeding feral cats on public property. The prohibition was omitted when the city adopted the City of Los Angeles’ animal control ordinances, a move required when Beverly Hills retained certain services of the City of Los Angeles’ Animal Services Dept.

So, Varjian’s attorney and daughter, Tina Varjian, wants to know why her client has been charged with violating a non-existent law.   

Varjian has been feeding and caring for feral cats for 12 years in Beverly Hills. She takes the adult cats to be spayed/neutered and works to find homes for the kittens.

Some of her neighbors don’t like it, however, and are trying to stop her.

The Beverly Hills city council has considered the issue of the missing ordinance and has also decided to form a committee to address the issue of feral cats. The committee is working on a proposal for trap neuter return.  The matter will be taken up again at an August 4 meeting.

Varjian’s next court date is August 7 at 1:30 p.m. Feral cat caregivers in Beverly Hills can continue to feed and care for the cats.

Spector of Ballot Initiative Brings TNR to Mt. Olive

feral catUpdate: Mt. Olive Township, New Jersey, has voted to approve the TNR ordinance.

Proponents worked for months to try to get the Township to consider and approve the ordinance. The Township did so only after TNR supporters undertook a ballot initiative which would mean voters could approve a TNR ordinance regardless of whether town officials agreed.

The good news is everyone came together and did the best thing for the feral cats.

For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier report below. (Please thank the officials listed below for passing this ordinance, a humane way to reduce feral cat populations.)

Under the new ordinance Mt. Olive Township TNR Project will manage or serve as sponsor for feral cat caregivers. The sponsor must maintain liability insurance for all TNR-related activities and name Mt. Olive Township as an additional insured. The sponsor will also review and approve of feral cat caregivers, resolve any complaints; maintain records provided by colony caregivers on the size and location of the colonies as well as the vaccination and spray/neuter records of cats in the sponsor’s colonies; and report annually to the Township on the following:

a. number of colonies in the Township; 

b. total number of cats in colonies;

c. number of cats and kittens spayed and neutered pursuant to the TNR program; and

d. number of cats and kittens placed in permanent homes.

Caregivers are responsible for the following:

a. registering the Feral Cat colony with the Sponsor;

b. keeping cats’ rabies vaccinations current;

c. taking steps to get all cats in the colony population spayed/neutered by a licensed veterinarian;

d. providing the sponsor with descriptions of each cat in the colony and copies of documents evidencing that the cats have been vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and eartipped;

e. providing food, water and, if feasible, suitable shelter for colony cats;

f. observing the colony cats and keeping a record of any illnesses or unusual behavior noticed in any colony cats;

g. obtaining the approval of the owner of any property to which the Caregiver requires access to provide colony care;

h. in the event that kittens are born to a colony cat, taking steps to remove the kittens from the colony after they have been weaned, and place the kittens in homes, foster homes, or with animal shelters, rescue organizations or veterinary offices for the purpose of subsequent permanent placement;

i. reporting annually in writing to the Sponsor on the status of the colony, including data on the number and gender of all cats in the colony, the number of cats who died or otherwise ceased being a part of the colony during the year, the number of kittens bom to colony cats and their disposition, and the number of cats and kittens placed in permanent homes as companion cats; and

j. obtaining proper medical attention for any colony cat who appears to require it.

An Animal Control Officer who has trapped a cat whose left ear has been tipped shall contact the Sponsor so that the Sponsor can identify the cat and return the cat to the colony.

The Township has these rights: 

a. the right to seize or remove cats from a colony who have not been vaccinated against rabies and who are demonstrating signs of the disease.

b. the right to seize or remove a cat from a colony who is creating a nuisance, after the Caregiver and Sponsor have been given 60 days to remove and relocate the cat and have failed to do so. That time may be reduced if the cat is injured or poses a significant threat to the public health.

c. the right to seize or remove a colony of cats when the Caregiver regularly fails to comply with the ordinance and the Sponsor has not been able to obtain a replacement or substitute Caregiver within 60 days of the Township’s notice to the sponsor of the Caregiver’s failure to comply with the ordinance.

Original report: feral catMt. Olive Township may soon join the many other New Jersey towns that have trap neuter return programs for feral cats.  An ordinance adopting such a program is scheduled to be introduced with a vote on August 4, 2009.

The ordinance was requested by Michele Lerner, an attorney and policy specialist for Project TNR.  It is the goal of Project TNR to introduce Trap-Neuter-Return as the humane, effective and cost effective method of controlling feral cat populations. Project TNR is a comprehensive program that will result in lower animal control costs, fewer to no births, reduction of nuisance complaints by residents and alleviation of public health concerns.

Go here for more information on work by Lerner in establishing TNR programs in New Jersey.

Though the township health officer, Frank Wilpert, animal control officer, William Cirone, and attorney, Peter King, have expressed opposition to  the TNR ordinance, Mayor David Scapicchio is now on board with putting the proposal to a vote by the city council.

This vote comes, however, after months of effort by Lerner and Project TNR and dozens of other organizations and citizens. They worked to educate the township officials at numerous meetings about TNR, how the program would humanely reduce the population of feral cats and save the township animal control costs.

Significantly, Project TNR also began a ballot initiative, obtaining 780 or more signatures, far in excess of the 463 signatures needed to put the issue on the November ballot for voters, not the city council, to decide. This was likely the impetus for the mayor and council’s willingness to consider the proposal.

Under New Jersey state law voters in a municipality have the right to propose and pass or reject ordinances by ballot initiatives. Voters in a municipality can also reject ordinances already approved by local government through the process of referendum.  N.J. Stat. §§ 40:69A-184-192

It is likely TNR supporters will proceed with the ballot initiative should the township council decide not to adopt TNR.


The town council’s August 4 meeting will be held at the municipal building on Flanders-Drakestown Road in Mt. Olive Township at 7:30 p.m. EST. Find the names and email addresses and other contact information for Mt. Olive Township council members here.  You can also write or call the mayor and council members:

Mount Olive Township
204 Flanders-Drakestown Road
Budd Lake, N.J. 07828

Telephone: (973) 691-0900


Very politely urge the mayor and council members to support trap neuter return as a humane solution to overpopulation of feral cats and to save animal control costs. Under the township’s current policy which was just re-affirmed in May, 2009, feral cats are trapped when a complaint is received and then euthanized after seven days. This method in no way will reduce the population of feral cats and means valuable animal control resources are spent trapping one or two cats and then housing and euthanizing them. This makes no sense when TNR has been proven to be an effective, humane way to control feral cat populations and costs the local government very little.     


Camden Joining Other NJ Towns in Adopting TNR

feral catUpdate July 16: Camden, New Jersey’s city council has given first round approval to a plan to implement trap neuter return in the city. 

Under the proposed ordinance, caregivers would register with animal control and be responsible for trapping and spaying or neutering the cats, obtaining vaccinations and otherwise maintaining the colony.

Animal control would be required to work with caregivers if a feral cat became a "nuisance" rather than simply impound the animal. 

Proponents of TNR urged the council to turn oversight of the TNR program to an independent board or a non-profit. Animal control, though, would like to maintain control. 

Everyone agrees the program will save and improve cats’ lives, reduce the population of feral cats and save the city money. Currently, the city spends $55 every time a cat is impounded and euthanized.     

feral catby Michelle Lerner, Attorney, Policy Specialist for Project TNR

Project TNR (Trap-Neuter- Release) applauds the Old Bridge Animal Rights Association (OBARA) for reaching out to the community to offer its services in managing the township’s feral-cat population.

Throughout New Jersey, forward thinking town officials are increasingly seeking to develop TNR programs to manage feral cats, and Old Bridge Township would do well to enlist the support of OBARA in its efforts to control feral cats through this humane, effective and cost-effective management program.

TNR involves trapping all cats in an area and adopting out the kittens and friendly adult cats. Feral adult cats that cannot be tamed are neutered and vaccinated against rabies before being returned to their habitat.

More than 100 municipalities in New Jersey now implement or endorse this strategy because they realize it is the most effective and cheapest way to reduce the number of feral cats. The TNR program in Atlantic City has reduced its feral cats by more than 40 percent. Some municipal programs have reduced populations by 75 percent or more. The National Animal Control Association (NACA), which once opposed TNR, now supports it for these reasons. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services describes TNR as an integral component of feral-cat management. Gov. Jim McGreevey’s Task Force on Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA recommend and endorse it.

There is a common misconception that towns can eliminate feral cats by trapping, removing and killing. But that is a practical impossibility that has never happened and never will. The reason is simple: it requires too much labor and is too expensive.

To reduce feral-cat numbers, it is necessary to trap every cat, as any cats left untrapped will repopulate the area in no time. But trapping every cat takes the work of a team of people. The area must be monitored beforehand to identify all cats, the trapping can take many hours over a series of days, and monitoring must continue so that any new cats can be trapped. No single animal control department can accomplish this throughout a municipality. And even if it could, it could not afford to pay for it.

The president of the New Jersey Animal Control Officers Association estimates that towns pay a minimum of $49 to hold one cat for the seven days required by state law. Some towns pay more than $100 to hold each cat. Towns also pay upwards of $35 to euthanize each cat, with additional fees for body disposal. In total, it costs New Jersey municipalities $85-$200 to trap and kill each feral cat.

For economic reasons, towns send their animal-control officers to trap and kill cats in response to specific complaints. But this does not reduce feral-cat numbers, since the remaining cats reproduce and quickly replace the ones that have been killed. The president of NACA calls this approach "bailing the ocean with a thimble."

feral catsTNR works because individuals and nonprofits volunteer the significant labor it takes to identify and trap every cat in an area, continue monitoring for new arrivals, and adopt out kittens and friendly adults.

TNR also works because neutering feral cats is much cheaper than killing them. Low-cost clinics around the state will neuter feral cats for amounts ranging from $0-$55 each.

Once neutered, the cats stop reproducing and die off naturally. They also stop mating-related nuisance behaviors like fighting, spraying, roaming, etc.

TNR also helps wildlife. The best way to prevent cats from killing birds and rodents is to reduce cat populations as quickly and effectively as possible. TNR is the way to do this. This is why Gov. Jon Corzine’s environmental transition team recommended TNR. It is also why the New Jersey Audubon Society and the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program are working with New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance, the Humane Society of the United States and Neighborhood Cats on TNR guidelines to protect wildlife.

(This article first appeared in The Suburban, Greater Media Newspapers, reprinted with permission.) 


It is the goal of Project TNR to introduce Trap-Neuter-Return as the humane, effective and cost effective method of controlling feral cat populations. Project TNR is a comprehensive program that will result in lower animal control costs, fewer to no births, reduction of nuisance complaints by residents and alleviation of public health concerns.