(Photo by Maureen Smith)

Community Cats & the Law

Community cats occupy a unique niche in our society because they belong to a domesticated species and are often fed by humans, yet they have no owners and many are feral and therefore not good candidates for adoption. Local laws regarding community cats and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) vary from place to place. For example, New York City’s Local Law 59 endorses TNR and includes vaccination against rabies and identification (eartipping) in its definition of TNR.

This section gives information on aspects of the law that community cat caretakers should know about — particularly in New York City — and tips on how to work with law enforcement and community leaders to help ensure the safety and well-being of community cat colonies.

Community Cats & the Law FAQ

How are community cats and caretakers protected under the law in New York City? This FAQ prepared by the ASPCA and the NYC Feral Cat Initiative answers TNR caretakers’ most common questions.

(Photo by Jake Remington)

Cat Ordinance Fact Sheets

Cat Law Fact Sheet #1: Overview of Cat Ordinances
Learn how federal, state, and local laws affect community cats, and how and why community cat advocates can be involved in the legislative process.

Cat Law Fact Sheet #2: How to Research Ordinances and State Laws That Impact Cats
Learn how existing local laws in your area affect community cats, and how you can identify whether changes to these laws are needed to improve their impact.

How to Report an Animal Cruelty Crime

Community cats are protected by the same anti-cruelty statutes that protect our pets from unjustified harm, pain, or suffering at the hands of a human. In New York City, animal cruelty cases are handled by the New York Police Department (NYPD).

NYPD Precinct Community Councils
NYPD Precinct Community Councils

The New York Police Department (NYPD) holds monthly community precinct meetings throughout the five boroughs of New York City. These meetings are open to the public and are a great place to find out what’s happening in the neighborhood. They also give cat caretakers a forum to become known in their precinct as a trusted source of facts about community cats and responsible colony care.

Find Your NYPD Precinct

If you aren’t sure which precinct you live in, check out the NYPD’s Precinct Finder.

Find Your Community Board
Find Your Community Board

Monthly community board meetings provide community cat caretakers with a forum to find out about what’s happening in their neighborhoods, and, importantly, to become known and respected by their local authorities. Caretakers will be particularly interested in the Public Safety Committee (the focus is on law enforcement, including animal cruelty) and the Health and Human Services Committee (the NYC Department of Health, which manages issues affecting community cats, can be influenced through this committee).

Workshop: Cruelty & Cats

Attend this valuable workshop to learn what constitutes animal cruelty in New York City and how it applies to community cats and caretakers. Educate yourself to be an informed advocate to educate others on the proper ways to address and report animal cruelty. Learn ways to proactively interact with your local police precinct and community board to establish good relations for the community cats before a problem arises.