You could call it a “cat fight”. Virginia lawmakers are currently debating a bill to make it easier for volunteers to catch, neuter, and release wild cats. Many animal rights activists are against it.
Daphna Nachminovich is an executive at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and knows how quickly cats reproduce.
“They have at least two litters a year, and they have several kittens per litter, and they start reproducing after five or six months.”
So she doesn’t mind spaying feral cats, but she’s not happy with a bill sponsored by Senator Lynwood Lewis. It enables animal shelters to set up trapping, neutering, and release programs, and exempts volunteers from state laws that require people to care for their animals by providing food, water, shelter, and veterinary care.
And from a public health perspective, said Nachminovich, they should arrange vaccination of wild cats against diseases like rabies.
“Cats are the most common domesticated animal that transmits rabies to humans,” she explains. “So it is extremely important that you are kept informed of your vaccinations.”
She adds that the legislation does not provide protection for people’s pets – not a requirement that trapped cats be kept for a period of time for owners to claim.
“It really applies to any cat that finds a person outdoors with no visible identification. This can really be any cat that belongs to another person or a cat that someone is already looking after.”
Instead, opponents advocate laws like the one in Newport News.
“A few years ago they passed an ordinance requiring people who want to feed wild cats outdoors to register with animal control, actively catch, castrate, vaccinate, and limit the colony size to 20 the cats they want to groom Owner and also the permission or buy-in of the surrounding owners, ”says Nachminovich.
Many wildlife advocacy groups worked with PETA to oppose the bill – finding that wild cats kill billions of birds and small mammals in this country every year. They are calling on state lawmakers to put Lewis’ bill aside and let them craft a better bill for consideration next year.