Update on the Virginia Legislature’s Actions
We recently alerted our members to four bills under consideration by the Virginia General Assembly that would encourage feral cat colonies, called by some "community cats programs.” As of January 30, it appears that three of the bills have been stalled in committee. Several legislators and others working on the issue expressed their great appreciation for calls, emails and letters they got from Auduboners opposing these bills. Please continue your efforts.
The third Senate bill, #693, was reported from the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on January 29. The committee amended the bill substantially and it will now go before the full Senate. If passed by the Senate and the House of Delegates, this bill would legalize “Trap, Neuter, Release” (TNR) programs throughout Virginia which would result in more feral cat colonies and fewer birds and other wildlife.
Please contact your state senator now and urge him or her to vote against this bill. The Senate could consider it any day now. (http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/) Please let your delegate know of your own concerns as well.
Here are some points you could make:
- Cats should have owners who take care of their needs; dietary, veterinary and others.
- Cats are introduced, non-native species. They are pets, not wildlife.
- Studies show that cats that are allowed to roam outdoors are not as healthy as indoor cars and have shorter lives. They are subject to being killed by vehicles and wildlife, e.g., foxes.
- After habitat loss the greatest threat to bird populations is free-roaming cats according to the Department of the Interior’s 2014 State of the Birds Report. The report states that one of the best ways to reduce or eliminate direct sources of mortality includes:
“Keeping pet cats indoors and implementing policies to eliminate feral cat colonies.”
- Local governments should more actively inform people about responsible pet ownership and not encourage the release of cats anywhere.
ASNV’s Cats Indoors Initiative with local jurisdictions
ASNV has met several times with Fairfax County officials and most recently in January with the Wildlife Biologist, the Animal Placement Specialist and the Director of Communication and Outreach for the animal shelter to discuss expanding and improving their promotion of the “Cats Safe Indoors” program. In 2015, Fairfax County will offer two programs with ASNV at different locales to encourage cat owners to keep their pets indoors. Plans are also underway to expand the effort and educate citizens about how to coexist with native wildlife.
ASNV is also currently working with Arlington County to encourage them to adopt a similar, “Cats Safe Indoors” program for the benefit of cats, birds and other wildlife.