RD36 - Free-roaming Cat Stakeholder Workgroup Final Report – December 2021

  • Published: 2022
  • Author: Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources and Secretary of Health and Human Resources
  • Enabling Authority: Request of the House of Delegates (2021)

Executive Summary:

In 2021, at the request of the Chairman of the Virginia General Assembly’s House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources, and Health and Human Resources convened a workgroup to develop legislation to reduce and control the population of free-roaming cats and mitigate the impact of free-roaming cats on the Commonwealth’s native wildlife, natural resources, and public health. The activities of the workgroup were coordinated by the Office of the Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources (SNHR). The SNHR selected the 20 stakeholders from both private and public sectors, to include representatives from state and local government, animal shelter and control professionals, wildlife conservation and environmental experts, veterinary and human health experts, and animal welfare advocates. The SNHR hosted four sessions to inform workgroup members of their legislative responsibilities and identify recommendations to harmonize existing local free-roaming cat population management practices with animal protection and control and wildlife conservation needs. Mark E. Rubin of The McCammon Group facilitated and mediated these sessions to help guide a collaborative and productive working process. All meetings were open to public attendance in person and via virtual meeting platforms. Meetings were also attended by staff from the Division of Legislative Services to support drafting of potential legislation. A shared goal and unified message from stakeholders throughout the process was the emphasized importance of legislation created from unanimous, consensus-based agreement.

The goals of the workgroup session meetings were as follows:

1) Introduce and familiarize members with the workgroup scope & focus;

2) Identify areas of agreement, interest, and vision;

3) Collect feedback from workgroup members on potential legislative language addressing key areas of interest; and

4) Develop a final set of recommendations that reflects workgroup consensus and areas still needing work.

Throughout the process, the workgroup addressed a number of important topics, including locality-adopted cat management plans, requirements of trap-neuter-return (TNR) practitioners, veterinary care, feeding, recordkeeping, and education of practitioners. While the stakeholder workgroup did not reach unanimous consent on the proposals discussed, there was sufficient agreement by the workgroup of its desire to continue work on this topic beyond its constitution by the SNHR to inform the General Assembly at a later legislative session. This report presents a summary of the information developed and considered by the workgroup, as well as an overview of the themes and various alternatives discussed by stakeholders.