Appreciation to Rob Blizard, executive director of Norfolk SPCA for his article, as well as the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies and all who are working on behalf of cats in Virginia.
Progress for Virginia’s feral cats stonewalled
Times Dispatch Guest Columnist Rob Blizard
November 20, 2014 10:30 pm
[excerpts, always read entire]
While debating potential new legislation to bring trap-neuter-return (TNR) to more Virginia communities, just three individuals in October stonewalled the prevention of an enormous number of unwanted births of kittens in our state. And it is unconscionable that the state government has given those three so much power to block change in a commonwealth of more than 8 million people.
Virginia TNR advocates want to see laws changed so that those engaged in TNR are not liable under the legal status of a pet owner. Because this issue is so critical, the CACL group spent the better part of two years discussing TNR and related topics. In much of 2013 and 2014, folks have been traipsing to Richmond for discussions with a deep, bitter fault line dividing the two sides.
Nevertheless, the group’s coordinator, veterinarian Dan Kovich of VDACS’ Office of Animal Care and Health Policy, this fall developed a draft of compromise legislation that could be sent to the General Assembly as a composite bill.
Unfortunately, Kovich’s quest for consensus became a requirement for unanimous approval of the compromise legislation by the unelected CACL group members, virtually ensuring its failure of moving forward. On Oct. 30, representatives from the Virginia Animal Control Association (VACA) and the Virginia Alliance for Animal Shelters (VAAS) both said no to the draft.
Why would unanimity be required? The legislature doesn’t require unanimity when it votes. VDACS should not have placed such a high bar on advancing legislation that could prevent a multitude of unwanted births in our communities.
Furthermore, why would VACA and VAAS oppose TNR? According to its website, even the National Animal Control Association(*) “recognizes that in some circumstances, alternative management programs, including TNR — programs may be effective….” But I learned that VACA has no TNR policy. In emails we exchanged, the VAAS chair would not say if VAAS had a policy on TNR, stating the matter was so complex that a phone call would be necessary to explain their position. Nor does VAAS list its member shelters on its website. So it is unclear to me if the VACA and VAAS votes actually reflected the position of a large number of animal welfare professionals.
(* Feral Cat Blog! note 2008 NACA Policy Community Cat Management
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from AnimalResources files:
Vermont Animal Control Association Newsletter Spring 2012
- opposition to TNR according to Kathy Vaca, Legislative Liaison.
The most controversial bill of the session was SB 359 - Trap, Neuter, and Return programs; permits operation of formal program relating to feral cats, patroned by Senator Creigh Deeds. VACA was contacted by Suzanne Kolgut of Charlottesville SPCA, who requested the bill of Senator Deeds, prior to its introduction. We were shocked and disturbed that this bill was not at all about managed colonies, but rather the legal right to abandon cats with no further duty to provide any type of care. VACA made our position clear. Exemption from the definition of or duties of owner was non negotiable. How could we call ourselves either humane or professional if we agreed to this? If we turned a blind eye to stripping away the provisions of adequate care for one group of companion animals, what group was next? Dogs, as proposed by HB 610? How could we justify abandoning our mission of humane care for all animals in such a manner? We suggested proponents look at ordinances that provide real management of and responsibility for feral cat colonies, but this point became an impasse. Proponents insisted they wanted people to be able to release these cats without any further responsibility for food, water or emergency medical care. Proponents cited HSUS, NACA and Alley Cat Allies as supporters of this bill. However, a simple visit to the website of any of these organizations clearly reveals each supports MANAGED feral cat colonies, not abandonment.Virginia Alliance for Animal Shelters
As we continued to look at SB 359, even more concerns arose. In both 2009 and 2010 Virginia was 2nd in the nation for rabies in domestic animals. In 2009 Virginia was 3rd in the nation for rabies in cats; 2nd in the nation in 2010. The bill stated those trapping cats could sterilize, vaccinate against rabies OR ear tip these animals, making sterilization and vaccination both options rather than requirements. The bill provided no protection for property owners, who may not want feral cats on their property, and no recourse for recovery of damages or costs, because the cats would belong to no one.
The bill successfully passed the Senate despite our efforts and moved to the House. A substitute was introduced which was in many ways worse. This version stated a shelter, humane society OR locality had authority to conduct trapping, sterilization and release of feral cats. This version did not require that the shelter or humane society be Virginia based. Even more shocking was language granting equal authority to a private non-profit group and local government. One could only imagine the conflict created if a local government did not want feral cat colonies. The fact that there exists an ongoing case in Henrico County over this very issue is a perfect illustration.
The bill continued to be hotly debated right to the end. Proponents claimed this was a simple little local option issue. They claimed that because VACA and other opponents insisted on care for the cats and management of the colonies, we preferred euthanasia. At the House Agriculture sub-committee meeting where the bill was heard, committee members raised many concerns including diseases such as rabies, salmonella and toxoplasmosis. The VVMA raised concerns about the effect of the bill on veterinary practices. Ed Clark of the Wildlife Center of Virginia spoke about the severe wildlife and song bird predation by feral cats. Delegate Bobby Orrock voiced his opinion that the substitute was not germane, because it was now a sterilization bill, rather than a TNR bill. In the end, by a vote of 5-2,
THIS BILL WAS TABLED BY THE AGRICULTURE SUB-COMMITTEE. It is expected that a work group will be formed to come up with recommendations dealing with feral cats in Virginia.
Kathy Strouse, Legislative Liaison
info according to Sharon Adams (don't know which year)
[excerpts, always read entire]
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is reviewing the current shelter regulations and those of you who actually run and administer shelters need to weigh in.....others are.
Also, the Comprehensive Animal Care Laws work group met on October 1st and once again is reviewing proposals related to roaming at large cats in Virginia. I am going to forward the proposal to all of you so that you will be fully informed. It is quite long and a little complicated, at least it was for me, but Paulette Dean and I, (who serve on the work group) will be happy to talk with you about it.
Sharon Quillen Adams
We had such a wonderful experience at the six regional workshops we held in April-almost 200 registrants plus a wildlife biologist and Conservation Police Officer at each of the meetings. Dr. Dan Kovich was a presenter at all of the workshops and he was particularly helpful in talking with attendees about specific issues in their region. He also presented a Cat Questionnaire to the participants and we will offer our summary of the responses in a later update.
From the Virginia Chapter of The Wildlife Society
Summer 2012 newsletter:
Conservation Review Committee
During June, the Conservation Review Committee drafted two letters regarding important con-servation issues in the Com-monwealth. First, the Chapter submitted a letter to the Nor-folk City Council opposing proposals to operate trap, neu-ter, release (TNR) programs for feral cats. Although state legislation which would have facilitated TNR programs was killed this past session, we are concerned about the im-pact that an individual locality’s decision can have on the spread of TNR programs across the state. Many studies have documented the destructive impacts of free-ranging cats on native wildlife; thus, at the national and state levels, TWS opposes any efforts that promote feral cats and the estab-lishment and maintenance of feral cat colonies in Virginia.
Virginia Federation of Humane Societies > Legislation
[excerpts, always read entire]
NEXT MEETING will be held on 10/30/14 at The Richmond SPCA
Comprehensive Animal Care Laws (CACL) meeting update.
We made a great deal of progress, and felt much more comfortable with Dr. Kovich's composite document once he had the opportunity to describe his thought process and the areas of compromise. The compromise — in the broadest sense — boils down to requiring the step of passing a local ordinance to allow TNR and community cat management in localities. Although this is by no means ideal, we feel it is likely worth it to compromise on this issue. One thing we gained on our side is that there will not be a comprehensive cat management plan requiring localities to deal with all free roaming cats — instead, localities would need to capture and dispose of only those cats who are suffering or who are under 3 months of age. If we can come to a compromise, we really need to consider it so that we can all move forward with caring for cats in our communities.
I have attached a copy of Dr. Kovich's composite document, and our detailed notes regarding yesterday's meeting. These attachments should appear at the bottom of this email. At the end of the meeting notes, there are a series of questions that we very much want to get your input on.
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previous related Feral Cat Blog! posts:
Virginia legislation SB 359 > Trap Neuter and Return programs
- January 18, 2012
Virginia legislation SB359 Trap Neuter Return update
- February 03, 2012
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