Torts and torties

Torts and torties

cat_lawyer_1_718b71A little over a week ago, I had the opportunity to attend the sixth annual Pennsylvania Bar Institute Animal Law Conference in Philadelphia.

That means that lawyers all over the Keystone State are devoting their time, gifts and love to thinking about and working for needy animals. Heaven knows the cats (and dogs, and eared sea lions) could use a good advocate. All of this gives me tremendous encouragement.

Good thing for Elvira there's no law against glamour. But what surprised me was the great disparities between “dog law” and “cat law.” The tome given out to all conference attendees devoted 223 pages exclusively to new dog laws…and exactly 30 pages to cat laws. By no means do I blame the fine people who planned the conference. Their presentations simply reflect the state of the laws.

I was shocked to learn that, while all 50 states have specific “dog laws,” only three (CA, RI and ME) have comprehensive “cat laws.” Now, before we storm our state Senate buildings with flaming torches, consider that the dearth of cat-related laws is a mixed blessing. On the downside, of course, this means painfully limited protection for our beloved felines.

But there’s a good side here, too. As one attorney explained, there are more laws surrounding dogs because the legal profession (and most people) perceive dogs as at least potentially dangerous. Cats, on the other hand, are still considered largely “harmless,” and therefore need less regulation. While more cat-related laws could help protect felines from abuse and mandate greater responsibility, they may also penalize folks for helping ferals (i.e. caretakers of feral colonies, good people who do trap-neuter-release, etc.). When a colony of ferals is managed by caretakers, the issue of ownership creeps in, and tighter laws could actually slap fines onto feral caretakers for owning dozens of cats. So, there are advantages to not having more cat-centric laws. As with most things legal, it’s complicated.

Hoarding survivors Twinkie & Trifle were rescued due to animal cruelty laws, not a hoarding law (which doesn't exist).More than anything, the conference reaffirmed for me the vital importance of loving these cats with all we’ve got. Although the 90 million owned cats in the US make felines America’s most popular pet, 70% of cats who end up in public shelters will be euthanized, while only 1-2% will be redeemed by their families. (Compare that to 50% of dogs in shelters being euthanized, and 20% being redeemed.) Given that there may be as many as 90 million feral cats in America, that means there’s one homeless feline for every beloved family cat. As one attorney grimly put it, these cats are trapped in an “assembly line of death,” and a “national tragedy of epic proportions.”

I wish we could take in 90 million homeless cats at Tabby’s Place. I wish we could nudge the world towards cat-loving laws, and help educate folks to prevent “disposable pet” syndrome.  

But I know we can love every cat we touch with everything we’ve got. I know we can change the world for every Tabby’s Place cat, and love him as if he were the only cat in the world. I know we can play our part.

Let’s work and pray that the laws and love of the world will follow.

8 thoughts on “Torts and torties

  1. Angela, if each one of us does everything we can, we will continue to make a tremendous difference to every cat whose life we can touch. We need to make sure that new legislation works FOR cats and people, not against us and our efforts. Together we can accomplish anything!!!! (P.S. Love the picture of the cat in the business suit!)

  2. Angela, any guesses about the disparity between the number of shelter cats and dogs that are redeemed? Is it as simple as there being more cats so more are euthanized, fewer redeemed, or is it more complicated than that?

    1. Good question, Fred. As I recall from the presentation, cats and dogs arrive at shelters in about the same numbers, so I think it’s that fewer cats are redeemed (which adds up if many of them are ferals/unowned/already dumped to begin with).

  3. Well I don’t like to focus on the negative in anything but I can’t shake the phrase, “assembly line of death”. It’s so true and so sad and very well said.
    It’s part of the reason I can’t bear to go in to the cat rooms at shelters and I cringe at the cats in shelters on petfinder. They really are in an assembly line, closer and closer to the door.
    It breaks my heart.

  4. I sadly learned when I volunteered in a shelter that, to many people, cats are simply not on the same level as dogs and are considered more disposable. It was very sad but on another level, very infuriating.
    Cat and dog volunteers were very polarized….I could give you more details but talking about it would make me angry all over again.
    Those of us who care about cats needs to get the word out that cats are equally deserving of our love and protection. This Tabby’s Place blog is an affirmation of that, for sure.

  5. Kathi, it’s not just in shelters, sadly. In Florida, the Fish and Game Commission had a law enacted to make it illegal to feed feral cats on public (and government) lands. Cats were to be rounded up and “disposed” of. NOT ONE WORD about the packs of dogs running wild in the state. Guess who I’ll help first if given a choice between a cat and an FWC officer? Maybe not right but the cat to me is an endangered species in Florida and we can always grow more cops. (o;

  6. An update: I recentl fostered two little kittens, on totally black little guy named Bear and a beautiful little princess named Charm. Charm was a Tortie. When she was born she was the last of seven kittens and also the runt. Everyone that saw her commented on just how ugly this poor little girl was. Talk about your ugly duckling in kitty fur! She blossomed into the the sweetest, most loving little princess of a cat and just beautiful! And full of Tortie-tude! Even though she never got to be as big as her brother she would put a kitty whompin’ on him in a royal heartbeat! They are now in a loving, forever home and last reports are they are spoiled rotten. I loved Charm and would have kept her but just could not seperate her from Bear. They were so close to each other I doubt either would have been able to live a normal life away from the other. They even slept wrapped up in each other. So, I had to do what was best for them and let her go, too. I thought my days of having a cat were through, but that was not to be. As sweet Angela knows, I was adopted a few weeks later by a very wild, cold, wet and hungry stray that is now named Rascal. That is another story. He is my reward for taking in a kitten no one else wanted. I believe that.

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