From Shell, www.theanimalspirit.com
On October 6, 2003, the Pennsylvania Game Commission decided not to amend Title 58 PA Code Part III Chapter 137.2 to prohibit the release of cats. Some reports have indicated that this is a victory for advocates of trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs, but, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, such claims are incorrect because TNR programs have been and remain illegal under Chapter 137.1(A)1.
On October 9, 2003, I spoke with Skip Littwin of the Law Enforcement Dept. of PA Game Commission. Mr. Littwin explained that the purpose of the meeting on October 6 was, in part, to move the prohibition against TNR programs from Chapter 137.1 to Chapter 137.2.
According to Littwin, 137.1(A)1 prohibits the release of cats. The exact language is:
137.1. Importation, sale and release of certain wildlife. (a) Unless otherwise provided in this section or the act, it is unlawful for a person to import, possess, sell, offer for sale or release within this Commonwealth the following animals or birds or the eggs of the birds or a crossbreed or hybrid of the animals or birds, which are similar in appearance:
(1) In the family Felidae. Species and subspecies, except species which are commonly called house cats which may be possessed but not released into the wild.
The Game Commission's plan was to move this language from 137.1 to 137.2.
137.2 previously made reference to "Release of turkeys." (see: http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/058/chapter137/s137.2.html). This has now changed. 137.2 is now titled "Release of Animals."
Again, the Commission's plan was to MOVE the reference to cats and dogs from 137.1 to 137.2. They did not do that. Instead, the Commission left 137.1 as is.
Bottom Line: According to Littwin, TNR has been in the past and continues to be illegal under 137.1. Littwin also stated that "animal control can trap and kill if cats pose a threat to wildlife."
Jerry Feaser, Press Secretary of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, stated: "When we become aware of trap-neuter-release programs, we let people know that they are releasing animals into the wild and it is illegal."
Although it has deemed TNR programs illegal, the Game Commission has no apparent plans to fine those who do it. The commission prefers to warn people that TNR is illegal, Feaser said. "Ninety-eight percent of the time, they say, 'Thank you' and that's the end of the story," Feaser said. ("Game Commission skirts decision on stray cats," Lebanon Daily News, October 8, 2003.)
There does, however, appear to be conflicting views about TNR within Pennsylvania government. Although the Game Commission treats TNR programs as illegal, Pennsylvania's State House designated October. 16 as National Feral Cat Day in Pennsylvania. (House Resolution No. 413.) The bill, among other things, acknowledges that TNR "has been proven to help control cat populations and stop nuisance behaviors ...and the cats can live healthy, safe and peaceful lives in their territories." It calls on everyone to dedicate themselves to sterilizing stray cats. The bill passed 199-2. ("Feral cat rule supporters, critics have their say," The Morning Call, October 6, 2003)
If the state House did designate October. 16 as National Feral Cat Day in Pennsylvania, they are sending a clear message to the Game Commission - leave feral cats and their caretakers alone.