People advocating for neuter-return programs for healthy community cats sometimes get told the cats are being "abandoned" when they're returned to the neighborhoods or areas where they were thriving. What's the legal basis of this objection? Is it true?
Best Friends Animal Society, which operates a number of wildly successful community cat programs across the country, has put its legal team to work, and they've come up with a short report on a number of legal issues, including abandonment, related to neuter-return programs. Here are some of the points they had to make on "abandonment" claims, with slight formatting changes to accommodate the Chew on This blog platform:
1. Abandonment provisions are penal codes that hinge on the critical component of intent to harm and require three critical factors:
- Intent to relinquish ownership or control over the animal, and
- Intent to withhold, discontinue, or otherwise deprive the animal of any necessary care, and
- Resulting foreseeable harm
2. Criminal sanctions for returning a healthy cat to his or her “outdoor home” as part of a community cat program deliberately designed to improve the cat’s overall health and well-being conflicts with legislative intent
- There is no intent to discontinue necessary care
- There is no intent to harm: the cat is being returned to his or her “outdoor home” in an improved state of health, which maximizes survivability
- There is no foreseeable harm
- Program eligibility requirements (minimum age, sound body weight and health, etc.) are reasonable predictors of a cat’s capability to successfully continue to care for himself or herself
- Once returned to familiar territory in an improved state of health, cats remain capable of finding sufficient food,water, and shelter
- Temporarily removing a cat from his or her home environment for medical treatment does not trigger a dependence on human support
3. Abandonment provisions are often unenforceable
- Law enforcement personnel must witness or have a credible witness to the abandonment to determine who actually placed the cat in question on any given property
- Was the cat released on the property, or did the animal enter the premises on his or her own?
View and download the complete document here.