Mulrooney Bill Would Establish Community Cat Program

 

DOVER – A bipartisan group of legislators introduced a measure Thursday that would create a “community cat” program to encourage spaying, neutering and vaccination of stray cats.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Mulrooney, House Bill 178 is designed to help limit the number of unwanted cats and protect the public from rabies and other diseases carried by unvaccinated animals. The bill defines “community cats” and “community cat caretakers,” whereby one or more persons may provide food, shelter, or medical treatment for free roaming cats without becoming an “owner” for legal purposes.

Free-roaming pet, stray, and feral cats, otherwise known as community cats, can reproduce very quickly when not sterilized, and can pose a public health risk when not vaccinated against rabies.  Community cat programs are widely recognized as a beneficial and successful strategy to address these cats. The effort to trap, neuter, vaccinate and release felines is a recognized method to decrease the number of unwanted cats. Delaware animal welfare laws do not recognize such programs.

“When I attend community meetings, I hear about the issue of stray cats repeatedly,” said Rep. Mulrooney, D-New Castle. “I have family members who have been doing just what this bill will accomplish: herding stray cats and having them spayed or neutered and vaccinated. It’s healthier for them and helps control the pet population. Making community cat programs official in Delaware will help organize these efforts and put in place a common-sense program.”

The bill also would clarify that community cat caretakers may participate in the state low-cost spay/neuter program if they meet income eligibility requirements. Additionally, it would require animal shelters to collect data on the number of cats they return to field as part of a community cat program, in order to measure the community cat population and plan future programs to reduce overpopulation.

The state Office of Animal Welfare supports this effort to reduce the community cat population in Delaware. HB 178 has been assigned to the House Health & Human Development Committee.