Carney signs HB 235 to protect Delaware’s free-roaming cats

New law will help reduce population, keep cats out of shelters
October 7, 2018

Gov. John Carney signed House Bill 235 into law Oct. 1 to protect free-roaming cats in Delaware. The law states that free-roaming cats deserve the full protection of animal cruelty laws, and that shelters have the full protection of the law to implement return-to-field programs. It will also protect caretakers who manage colonies of free-roaming cats.

This bill, which was nearly two years in the making, was a collaboration among Best Friends Animal Society, Brandywine Valley SPCA, Faithful Friends Animal Society, Delaware Humane Association, Forgotten Cats of Delaware, the Office of Animal Welfare, the veterinary community, the wildlife community and the public.  
The passage of HB 235 is considered a big win for free-roaming cats and caretakers in Delaware and will help save cats’ lives. The new law will humanely and effectively reduce the population of free-roaming cats in communities via shelter-based sterilization and vaccination programs. This science-based, veterinarian-focused approach to population control has shown itself to be the only effective means of reducing numbers of free-roaming, unowned cats. The bill also adds protections to ensure that animal cruelty laws apply to all cats, whether they’re owned or not.

The law also gives animal shelters the needed flexibility to implement programming that will help them save lives and adopt more animals. By exempting animals participating in a cat sterilization return-to-field program from the typical stray-hold period, shelters won’t have to use their extremely limited space to house cats they know have no owner and are not candidates for adoption. This frees up cages and resources that can then be used to find homes for other, adoptable cats and dogs. This will have a direct impact on the number of animals leaving shelters alive.

The bill also brings needed record-keeping to shelters regarding free-roaming cats. Over time and with a large enough sample size, animal advocates will be able to track the success of each shelter’s return-to-field program. That information can help shelters direct resources to the programs that are most helpful at achieving their mission of saving animals and finding homes for adoptable pets.

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