MILESTONE: Cat Abandonment Bill Halted in Virginia

The Virginia House of Delegates postponed consideration of HB 1727, which would have sanctioned cat abandonment in the state. Photo by Noko3/Shutterstock

The Virginia House of Delegates voted on February 5, 2020, to postpone further consideration of HB 1727 for the rest of the year. This bill, which would sanction cat abandonment throughout Virginia through the program known as trap, neuter, release (TNR), will be reconsidered in 2021. American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and a wide range of partners opposed the bill because of the negative impacts it would have on cats, wildlife, and people.

“HB 1727 would do more harm than good,” said Grant Sizemore, ABC's Director of Invasive Species Programs. “In addition to irresponsibly abandoning cats across the landscape, it would facilitate predation on native wildlife and the transmission of zoonotic diseases.”

Cats remain the top source of rabies among domestic animals in Virginia. Between 2001 and 2018, cats accounted for 65 percent of all rabid domestic animals in the state, and over eight times more cats tested positive for rabies than dogs. If passed, HB 1727 would actually allow for the purposeful release of unvaccinated cats into parks and neighborhoods, posing a serious public health risk.

The bill would also undermine existing companion animal laws that increase the likelihood of a cat being reunited with its owner. “Exempting TNR programs from local animal licensing requirements and from notifying public animal shelters when a lost cat is found serves neither pet owners nor the community,” said Sizemore.

ABC's Cats Indoors program promotes responsible pet ownership and effective at-large cat management. To promote such practices, supporters can send model ordinance language to their local officials anywhere in the country.

“American Bird Conservancy appreciates the support and partnership of animal welfare, wildlife conservation, and veterinary partners, as well as the many Virginia residents who made their voices heard in the General Assembly,” said Sizemore. “We look forward to working with these and other stakeholders to generate appropriate legislative language for future sessions.”

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Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472 | jerutter@abcbirds.org | @JERutter
Expert Contact: Grant Sizemore, Director of Invasive Species Programs, 202-888-7480 | gsizemore@abcbirds.org

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds).

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