Letter from a few years ago. Formatting might be off from the copy and paste - long day an getting to late to correct that right now:
PA Title 18, Section 5511
<span style="font-style: italic">Sections 1, 2 and 3 deal with cruelty to animals. Summary to felony penalties are outlined.
It is in section3 (c) that the disconnect with TNR and the law occurs:</span>
(c) Cruelty to animals.-- (1) A person commits an offense if he wantonly or cruelly ill treats, overloads, beats, otherwise abuses any animal, or neglects any animal as to which he has a duty of care, whether belonging to himself or otherwise, or abandons any animal, or deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter or veterinary care, or access to clean and sanitary shelter which will protect the animal against inclement weather and preserve the animal's body heat and keep it dry.
(2) (i) Except as provided in subparagraph (ii), a person convicted of violating paragraph (1) commits a summary offense. (ii) A person convicted for a second or subsequent time of violating paragraph (1) commits a misdemeanor of the third degree if all of the following occurred: (A) The action or omission for which the person was convicted for a subsequent time was performed on a dog or cat. (B) The dog or cat was seriously injured, suffered severe physical distress or was placed at imminent risk of serious physical harm as the result of the person's action or omission.
(3) This subsection shall not apply to activity undertaken in normal agricultural operation
(q) Definitions.--As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:
"Domestic animal." Any dog, cat, equine animal, bovine animal, sheep, goat or porcine animal.
TNR by its very use violates the law. Once caught, the cat is no longer feral. The very act of capturing the cat and rendering it under ones control (caged, medically evaluated and treated) makes the cat property. Title 18, Section 5511 is in full affect at this point.
Releasing the cat back into the wild, is a direct violation of PA Title 18, Section 5511, (c) Cruelty to animals:
(1) A person commits an offense if he wantonly or cruelly ill treats, overloads, beats, otherwise abuses any animal, or neglects any animal as to which he has a duty of care, whether belonging to himself or otherwise, or abandons any animal, or deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter or veterinary care, or access to clean and sanitary shelter which will protect the animal against inclement weather and preserve the animal's body heat and keep it dry
(B) The dog or cat was seriously injured, suffered severe physical distress or was placed at imminent risk of serious physical harm as the result of the person's action or omission.
Releasing a domestic animal into the wild, negates the responsibility to properly feed, and protect the animal from attack, fighting with other animals, adequate food, and protection from the elements. The very basis of the TNR program is that the feral cats are free to roam at will with no human controls, save being neutered.
Cats are also recognized as a prime rabies vector in Pennsylvania. TNR runs a foul of the law rabies control as well. The law is very clear, once vaccinated, the vaccinations must be recorded, available for verification, and updated. The law:
CHAPTER 16. RABIES PREVENTION AND CONTROL
§ 16.1. Definitions.
Cat—A carnivorous mammal scientifically known as Felis catus which spends part of a 24-hour day in a residence inhabited by a human being. For the purposes of Subchapter B (relating to control of rabies), the term includes members of the Felis catus species regardless of their location or relationship to humans.
§ 16.43. Revaccination.
A dog or cat over 3 months of age shall be vaccinated to maintain immunity against rabies by the administration of a USDA licensed vaccine, including vaccines producing immunity lasting 3 years, in accordance with instructions prescribed by the manufacturer.
(1) A dog or cat vaccinated when under 1 year of age shall be revaccinated no later than 1 year later.
(2) A dog or cat vaccinated when over 1 year of age with a vaccine producing immunity lasting 3 years shall be revaccinated no later than 3 years later and at least every 3 years thereafter.
(3) A dog or cat vaccinated with a vaccine producing immunity lasting less than 3 years shall be revaccinated no later than 1 year later.
§ 16.44. Vaccination certificate and tag.
A veterinarian shall issue a certificate of vaccination and a vaccination tag for each dog or cat vaccinated by the veterinarian or vaccinated under his supervision. A certificate of vaccination may be transferred to a new owner. The vaccination tag shall be a metal tag that is approximately 1 square inch in area that can be attached to an animal’s collar or harness and that is indelibly marked with the year of the rabies vaccination.
§ 16.45. Production of certificate of vaccination required.
A person owning or keeping a dog or cat over 3 months of age shall, upon request of a police officer or State dog warden or designated municipal animal control officer, produce within 48 hours a valid certificate of vaccination. A certified owner and operator of a State-licensed kennel shall present records required under § 16.63(5) (relating to vaccination requirements) as proof of rabies vaccination.
A one time vaccination is not sufficient. Questions arise as well as to what happens when a TNR cat bites or scratches a person. Who has the records for that cat? Is the vaccination current? Other legal questions remain in the form of civil liabilities regarding the release of a domestic animal into the wild and the resultant harm caused by that act and the cat posing a health hazard to the general public or someone possibly infected by such a cat.
In a January 4, 2011 article on the Philly.Com website (Philadelphia Inquirer) the following is noted by state and federal sources:
In Pennsylvania, 57 of the 65 rabid domestic animals reported in 2009 were cats........Besides vaccinating, to control the spread of rabies the CDC recommends that pets be spayed or neutered; that animals be kept under direct supervision and not be allowed to roam; and that any stray or ill animals be reported to animal-control officials. Anyone bitten or scratched by an animal should seek immediate medical advice.
Unvaccinated feral cats increase the potential for more cases of rabies, officials said.
Stephen Ostroff, the state Health Department's acting physician general, said: "The more bleeding-over we have into domestic populations, whether feral cats or the occasional cow, all have consequences for people."
The other disconnects with TNR is with basic animal control as it relates to others affected. Property damage, foul odors from feces and urine, destruction of wildlife so very valuable to many homeowners with feeders of various types,and the risk of disease are among many points not addressed with the TNR program or the acceptance of feral cat populations.
Acceptance of the TNR program places home owners, land owners, and others dealing with the problems associated with "cats" at a disadvantage. Animal control officers are often not available to assist in removal or turn a blind eye. If the cats are removed by landowners, they run the risk of running afoul of the law. To take the cat to a shelter requires an outlay of cash by the already affected citizen.
The dog control law, addresses the very same issues feral cats present. Damage, nuisance control, disease, and control measures. Cats, owned and cared for and feral, cause many if not all problems dog cause.
The question is now, why are cats, domestic and feral, not addressed in the law as dogs are?
Second, why is the state legislature approving and supporting a practice specifically illegal under the various laws?
Last, cats are defined as domestic animals. They are not part of the historic wildlife mix in Pennsylvania. The law is clear on releasing animals to fend for themselves. Under the law, this is cruelty to animals. Further, the harm to public health, and the inability to accurately vaccinate, identify, and account for feral cats in relation to rabies is clear.
Citizens, state and federal officials concerned with public health all have concerns with feral cats.
Allowing the TNR practices, clearly in violation of the law is not acceptable. It is time, well overdue to address this practice, and the feral cat problem head on. Like dogs, cats require law to regulate them and their owners, and in the case of TNR, the release into the wild.
The time is now to regulate TNR: the practice, regulations, liability, records, and legal accountability. Further, cat ownership, like dog ownership, needs to be codified as most of the same problems that necessitated the dog law are valid for cats.
It is also important to note, that the law as written and enforced provides a split enforcement standard. One group is seemingly granted an unwritten exception to various laws. While the general public is at a disadvantage for any remedy due to the unwritten exception granted to the TNR groups and the larger cat owning community. The larger issue is the failure to address cat problems, issues, and damage as addressed by the dog law for similar problems and issues.