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Feral cat 'management' plans eyed in Virginia

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A Virginia advisory group has concluded that local governments in the state should be required to adopt feral cat "management" plans, according to the panel’s spokesman. But exactly what those plans could look like remains to be determined.

At a Jan. 9 meeting in Richmond, members of the Comprehensive Animal Care Laws Working Group agreed to develop a “full list of possible strategies” that localities could include in those plans, and to determine whether any legislative changes are needed to implement those strategies, said Daniel Kovich, program manager in the Virginia Office of Animal Care and Health Policy. The group, which is charged with making recommendations for Virginia’s animal laws, will formally review the list of strategies at a meeting in June.

Advocates of trap-neuter-return (TNR) for feral cats have urged the working group to endorse clarifying state laws to allow counties and cities to conduct TNR. But “the reality is that within the working group, there still is not consensus on whether TNR should be authorized for jurisdictions, and if TNR were authorized, what, if any, restrictions would be placed on it,” said William Gomaa, associate director of law and policy at Alley Cat Allies, a pro-TNR organization that has been following the working group’s deliberations.

TNR proponents argue that sterilizing feral cats, who are unsocialized to people and therefore unadoptable, is more compassionate than the traditional animal-control practice of “trap and kill.” TNR critics counter that ferals often suffer from sickness, injury, abuse, neglect and death, and that euthanasia is sometimes more humane.

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