Letter: Cats deserve better protection in Delaware

June 7, 2019

The State of Delaware recently announced that the rescue dog would be recognized as the official state dog. While that is certainly laudable, and hopefully may lead to more folks adopting from shelters rather than buying from breeders and puppy mills, it does not address the other major pet of our state, namely, cats.

Delaware essentially ignores the status of cats, placing them all under the category of feral. Don’t believe me? Try reporting any kind of issue regarding cats to Delaware Animal Control/Office of Animal Welfare. They may tell you, as they did myself and my husband, that cats are regarded as wild animals, like squirrels. There are no laws regarding how cats are cared for, how many cats someone may own, whether cats must be kept on the owner’s premises or indoors, or any other issues. The only time the government agency intervenes is when there is an incident of clear and obvious abuse or neglect (i.e., diseased and/or dead cats on the premises).

Delaware cat owners are permitted to let their cats run free, regardless of whether or not their neighbors object. No one will officially intervene to attempt to get the owners to keep the cats on their property.

This is not the case in neighboring states. As an example, in Baltimore County, Md., cat owners are: required to officially license and register their cats; and required to keep cats indoors at all times, unless on a leash or in some manner kept on their own property.

Privately owned cats (not those deemed to be part of a feral colony) should be required to remain inside or, if outside, under the direct supervision of the owner. It’s safer for the cats in that they are not exposed to ticks and fleas and predators such as foxes, which are prevalent in many of our neighborhoods; prevents them from being struck by motor vehicles; and protects them from fighting with each other and becoming injured as a result. It also protects nesting birds from cats being cats. In fact, keeping a pet indoors is one of the contractual requirements when someone adopts a cat or kitten from Brandywine Valley SPCA, where I regularly volunteer. It’s a rule for a reason - to protect the cat.

I urge the state Legislature to consider drafting legislation to address this issue. Pet cats deserve the same level of protection that is currently afforded to dogs.

Susan Lamb


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