We urge you to reconsider adding provisions for free-roaming cat programs, specifically programs for trap-neuter-return (TNR), in the proposed new animal ordinances for both the City of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County. Our municipal shelter cat kill rate is extremely high (at 80% ), and this will continue to be the case until our community allows innovative, proven TNR efforts in our community. Otherwise, we are destined to kill at this alarming rate because feral cats do not belong in animal shelters.
We suggest the following changes to the proposed animal ordinance:
In Article V, Section 5-5, b: Remove the cat leash law.
To Article V, add the following:
Add a new section which spells out proper feeding and caretaking of outdoor cats and dogs and which allows for TNR efforts in our community. Call the section Feeding cats and dogs outdoors (such as this example from new ordinances adopted recently by Jacksonville, FL, which allow for community-cat solutions):
(a) These rules are applicable to all dogs and cats, excluding managed community cats covered in subsection (b) below:
1) The feeding of cats and dogs outdoors shall take place primarily during daylight hours to minimize the risk of domestic-wildlife interactions that have increased potential of rabies exposure for the cats or dogs. Any food provided after daylight hours shall only be provided for such time required for feeding, and no longer than thirty (30) minutes, after which it shall be removed.
2) Feeding outdoors is only allowed when an appropriate amount of food for daily consumption of the cat(s) and/or dog(s) being cared for is provided. Food must be appropriately placed in a sanitary container sufficient for the cat/dog being fed. Automatic feeders that are properly maintained and secured may be used to dispense daily food rations and may be present during night hours.
3) Dumping excess quantities of food on the ground, placing excess quantities in bowls or other containers, and leaving open food packages is prohibited. Feeding outdoors must take place on the property owned by the person placing the food or be done with the consent of the property owner. Feeding on public property, road right-of-ways, parks, common land of a multifamily housing unit or any property without consent of the owner is prohibited. Violators will be fined.
(b) Community Cat Management Initiatives: The City of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County recognize the need for innovation in addressing the issues presented by feral, free-roaming and other community cats. To that end it recognizes that there are community care givers of cats, and acknowledges that properly managed community cats may be part of the solution to the continuing euthanasia of cats; and establishes the following requirements:
1) All managed community cat colonies/groups must be maintained on private property of the caregiver, or with permission on the private property of another landowner (including city, state, and federal public property).
2) A free community cat caregiver certification program may be developed to educate people about community cats, the importance of a veterinary provider relationship to best address community cat needs, common disease(s) & proper care, good management practices, and maintenance of the community cats. The educational program shall be developed by community veterinarians, community cat caregivers, both AC departments, and the ASCMV through an ad hoc advisory committee that will be disbanded upon recommendations. Periodically, ad hoc committees will be convened to review, revise and update the program as needed.
3) All cats that are part of community cat management programs must be sterilized, vaccinated against the threat of rabies, and ear-tipped (preferable on the left ear) for easy identification; if these requirements are met, the community cat is exempted from licensing, stray, at-large and possibly other provisions of this ordinance that apply to owned animals.
4) If a person is providing care for the community cats, he or she is required to provide certain necessities on a regular/ongoing basis, including, but not limited to, proper nutrition and medical care as needed. If medical care is unavailable or too expensive, the caregiver must not allow the cat to suffer. Food must be provided in the proper quantity for the number of cats being managed and is to be supplied no less than once per day. Food must be maintained in proper feeding containers. Water, if supplied, must be clean, potable and free from debris and algae. If shelter is provided, it shall be unobtrusive, safe, and of the proper size for the cat(s). Violations of this section are subject to a fine.