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“The proposed bill, Bill 21-386, gives the mayor the authority to categorize cats as an invasive or nuisance species”

by Prince Of Petworth — November 16, 2016 at 4:25 pm 73 Comments


Thanks to all who passed on from the Humane Rescue Alliance:


The District’s City Council has taken the first vote to approve a bill with potential long-term threats to ALL cats residing in the District of Columbia. The Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) adamantly opposes this language and you should too. The bill, as proposed:

Would give the mayor the authority to categorize cats as an invasive or nuisance species.
Could jeopardize the use of our nationally-recognized and highly successful Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program.

The proposed bill, Bill 21-386, gives the mayor the authority to categorize cats as an invasive or nuisance species.

The Department of Energy and Environment, which represents the mayor, has published a Wildlife Action Plan that categorizes cats this way. No other state in the country classifies cats as an invasive or nuisance species. If this language remains, all cats will have more vulnerability than they did previously, particularly those who go outside. The intent of the bill is to narrowly target feral cats, which is bad enough – but the consequences could impact all cats, because you cannot scientifically differentiate between types of cats. Make no mistake, if this goes through, the scientific name for the common house cat, Felis Catus, could be classified as an invasive or nuisance species.

Furthermore, language in this bill could jeopardize the use of Trap-Neuter-Return programs that control the feral cat population in our city. Without TNR, the District could return to the institutionalized killing of cats. This cannot happen.

We are calling on you, our loyal supporters, to contact your council member today to urge them to exempt cats entirely from the mayor’s authority to categorize invasive or nuisance species, and to keep TNR legal for all District residents.

It is important that you contact your council member right away. If a second vote is taken, this bill could become law.

As always, your assistance is appreciated. We will be calling on you again as this issue moves forward.


Scott Giacoppo
Chief Community Animal Welfare Officer
Humane Rescue Alliance”

  • Tsar of Truxton

    Will this apply to Jaguars and Cougars? Can’t remember if they fall into the genus Felis Catus. If anything we should be bringing cats to deal with the rat problem we have. If only we could guarantee they were “mousers.” Joking aside, this is ridiculous.

  • Deebs

    Aren’t feral cats that haven’t been neutered an invasive species similar to rats?

    • bruno

      Weren’t cats ushered in to catch the rats?

      • textdoc


        • Alex

          No, but NYC just announced they’d start this program

          • bruno

            My neighborhood did so. Seems to have worked out.
            Speaking of mice, here’s a ditty I penned:
            “The price of cheese is dropping, so let’s go cheddar shopping.”

  • anonymouse_dianne

    It’s the g*d*n bird people who think community cats are killing the songbirds, when in fact it is the f*ing deer destroying their nesting grounds. Same people want to round up and Kill community cats. Where’s Nathan Winograd when you need him?

    • anon

      I regularly feed (and have named) many community cats, and I don’t really want them to be euthanized. But they def kill birds (and rats and snakes and basically anything else they can because they’re furry little killing machines).

      • Former DC Resident

        DO NOT FEED FERAL CATS! This is the single worst thing you can do to make the problem worse. Trap, neuter and release. If you want a pet, get a house cat and keep it indoors. Feeding feral cats makes it easier for them to survive and multiply.

        • AK

          So, you would prefer that they die horrible deaths from starvation?

          • Former DC Resident

            No, I’d rather their populations naturally dwindle as they have to forage/hunt for food instead of being artificially inflated due to people feeding them. They will not starve to death–they will search for food. If you feed them it just reinforces sticking around, breeding and making the problem worse.

          • Anne

            As opposed to dying from being hit by a car, attacked by a dog, getting abscesses and systemic infection from wounds, contracting a myriad of diseases, URIs, UTIs, ingesting poisons purposely put out, ingesting anti-freeze, frostbite or freezing to death, being consumed by multiple parasites (fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites), developing tumors, being attacked and tortured by demented humans…are these all palatable ways to die? If you feed cats to prevent starvation they will eventually die from something else.

        • Kathleen

          “Community Cats” are cats that have been neutered. They’re still a risk to wildlife, but they can’t reproduce. Someone has to feed them.

        • Audrey C. Jackson

          What you propose is inhumane! TNR, or Trap, Neuter, Return, works! It ensures that the feral cat population does NOT reproduce and multiply. It is inaccurate to say you should not feed feral cats. Many of these cats have been abandoned by people, and when dumped outside, cannot fend for themselves. Feeding cats that have been TNR’ed is the humane approach to this issue! It’s easy enough to say people should “get a house cat and keep it indoors,” but many people have house cats that they let go outside. This is different from a feral cat. Many of the feral cats that I’ve seen, once had homes but were abandoned, for whatever reason.

          How do I know? I’ve been caring for a cat colony for over 20 years, and once I was able to get the cats all spayed or neutered, the population started to level off. The original cats lived in a house up the street from us, and when the owner became too elderly to live on his own, his family came and moved him out. Unfortunately, they just left the cats there, and of course they started to spread out in the neighborhood foraging for food. Feeding feral cats is the humane thing to do. If you’re calling these cats an “invasive species,” then put Homo Sapiens at the top of the list first!

          • Former DC Resident

            Well I didn’t know the non-neutered cats would know to refrain from eating the food. I’m glad you have a fail-proof way to feed neutered, feral cats. I get that it sucks that animals are homeless and have to struggle to find food but they are animals. We are all animals. Nature is cruel sometimes. I agree that TNR is a great strategy but it should be used in tandem with not feeding. Cats will find food somewhere.

    • anonKim

      It’s estimated outdoor cats kill over 1 billion birds and 1 billion mammals each year. There are very few ground-nesting birds in the DC area so impacts from deer–deer populations that are managed with hunting btw–are minimal. You do not need to be a bird enthusiast (I’m not) to acknowledge the enormous impact cats have on native species. There is a wealth of unbiased scientific research and policy on the subject. The fact is that there are multiple charismatic species (ex. wild horses) in the US that are invasive and harmful to local ecosystems.

      • Data Enthusiast

        +1000 Cats are one of the biggest threats to birds in the US and this policy makes a world of sense to protect our natural environment, or at least the parts we haven’t yet destroyed. I hope the mayor does what she can to protect the birds we have left.

        • Kathleen

          But then what do you do with the cats? We don’t have the resources in this city to round them all up and euthanize them. TNR is the best solution we have right now to try and manage the population.

        • tatzanx

          Birds we have left? I feed hundreds, if not a few thousand birds a day, minimum, in a small DC back yard. I also have and feed cats. I will side with the cats. I watch how my cats, all the community cats, roaming cats, etc, all occupy the same space. Sure, a cat takes a run at a bird a few times a day, but they’re not generally catching them. Cats around even any of the animals most often associated with going into nests, eating young and eggs. trees into birds nests and eat eggs and baby birds. I see all the cats, all the birds, all the other critters, and I can say that cats aren’t really much of a threat to birds, squirrels, or much else besides rodents and crickets. Sure, I totally have spent my life with the image of cats as big bird killers. But they’re both here in great numbers, every day, and I simply don’t see it. It seems like it would be a thing, and tons of people swear it is, but I don’t see it. .There are so many things affecting birds and the environment, while these people seem to lock in on cats. And let me just take this moment to remind people that a cat will never fly by and shit on your head. The people who blame cats seem to have put up less fuss when Alexandria wiped out all the crows in the area because people didn’t like them pooping on their cars. People, people are the invasive species. Let’s get rid of all them.

  • CapHill23

    The irony of humans labeling another species as invasive or a nuisance….

    • kd21

      Oh man, Ishmael is my favorite book, too!

  • [rrrrr]

    Wrote Nadeau when I got this note today and her chief of staff got back super quickly. Basically said this is a part of efforts to protect waterways and will actually be an extension of TNR. Wrote back for clarification, considering that is pretty much the opposite of what HRA says in this note. Would welcome any elaboration on from HRA (or anyone with deeper knowledge) on how this bill threatens their programming.

    • textdoc

      Brianne’s staff not being fully informed?? Shocker.

  • Anonymous

    I realize it’s not a popular opinion in this crowd, but I’m all for it. Anything to get rid of these feral cats.
    Thanks for letting me know – I’ll email my councilmembers.

    • Makes sense

      Agree! I think we can all agree that we’d much rather by tripping over rats than cats

      • Anonymous

        Or we can limit the rat population through common sense measures.

        Oh, never mind. Did I just recommend common sense? Ridiculous of me. I apologize.

        But seriously, I don’t think the cats make the biggest difference with the overall rat population here.

        • textdoc

          D.C.’s rat problem and its feral cat population are two different things, and not really related except that both are caused by people being irresponsible. The rats are the result of people not taking sufficient measures to safeguard their trash, and the feral cats are the result of people failing to spay/neuter their cats and allowing them outside unneutered and/or abandoning them outdoors.
          We need some serious education efforts on both fronts. Unfortunately, a lot of people in D.C. follow the path of least resistance, which means NOT making any effort to keep their trash from becoming a food source for rats, and NOT bothering to spay/neuter their pets.

          • Kathleen


        • Makes sense

          There are several initiatives aimed at using feral cats to control rat populations:





          So I think there is a solid contingent of people out there who see feral cats as a solution to some urban issues.

          • anon

            Have community cats; have no rats. Have had rats when I didn’t have cats. All of my neighborhoods have been full of trash. My anecdotal experience is that they definitely help.

          • anonKim

            The problem with those initiatives is that releasing cats into an environment to hunt 1 rodent species is like poisoning an entire well to kill 1 person.

            Once you release the cats, they will hunt for whatever is around whether it is a nuisance rat or a threatened songbird. I would say that using targeted rat trapping methods and educating the public is a much more productive solution.

          • textdoc

            “targeted rat trapping methods” — What exactly are you talking about?

          • Anonymous

            DC does a pretty good job poisoning rats when they send their people out.

          • ExWalbridgeGuy

            Same. There’s a couple community cats that live out of a grassy area near me and I never see rats within a block radius of their home … I’m no expert on this but my anecdotal experience strongly suggests the cats help keep the rats off these blocks…

    • pulpadded

      You know you can TNR?

      • Anonymous

        Feel free to trap and neuter, but don’t release them back into my community.
        How would you feel if I supported a (neutered) feral dog colony in our neighborhood?

        • fugwatsu

          thats fine as long as you train them and pick up after them

          • Anonymous

            That would be the definition of a house pet that one takes for walks. Not possible for a feral colony of cats, dogs, monkeys, etc.

          • really?

            So it’s ok when feral cats use my garden as a litter box?

          • Anonymous

            It’s ok when you trap them with a Havahart trap or something like that. Is there any law that says I have to release it in my own neighborhood?

        • Audrey C. Jackson

          So you would rather your community get infested with rats??? D.C. has had a horrible rat problem for years. I’ve seen huge rats running all over this city — some of them seem to know how to cross the streets on the green lights! At least where there are cats, the rat population goes way down. I was told by a neighbor that before I started caring for feral cats in our neighborhood, the rats would be out in the alley, hanging off the neighbors’ trash cans. The mere scent of a cat can run rats away, so it’s not a matter of the cats actually killing and eating them. As for the bird myth, cats do not kill birds willy-nilly. Particularly if there is someone actually providing cat food for the felines. There is a lot of misinformation out, and one of the worst issues is where people try to quote studies saying feral cats are dangerous to birds and other wildlife. Alley Cat Allies addresses this issue in some detail, and if you have questions about it, do contact them. But don’t equate feral cat colonies with wild dogs in a community. Two different things entirely! Please get informed.

          • Anonymous

            Alley Cat Allies is clearly also a biased source.
            Why do you think feral cat colonies are different than feral dog packs? OK, they’re different animals. But is the difference that you like cats but not dogs?

  • Nick

    To everyone that has already posted: there’s a pretty good argument that cats are invasive and destructive. 2 minutes of googling turns up a number of reputable sources that support that conclusion. I don’t have an opinion on the merits of the proposed policy, but the nature of cats shouldn’t be ignored.

    • pulpadded

      The question is, in DC?

      • anonKim

        Yes, in DC.

    • Audrey C. Jackson

      Two minutes of googling turn up a lot of misinformation, and you have to be very careful about quoting from so-called “reputable” sources on the internet. Get informed by contacting organizations such as Alley Cat Allies, but DON’T think you can just get on google and pick your way through various links, looking for information to corroborate your argument. That study that supposedly found that feral cats are an invasive species, had many holes in its argument, not to mention their research methods. So it’s best to actually do some real footwork if you want good information. Don’t just sit at your computer and google something, thinking you’re going to find definitive answers there. That’s why they tell us not to google various diseases and think we’re going to find the solution to our personal issues in that way. Google will provide you with the good, the bad, and the ugly, most likely leaving you scared that you’re dying of some horrible disease, when that may not be the case.

  • Stan

    “Make no mistake, if this goes through, the scientific name for the common house cat, Felis Catus, could be classified as an invasive or nuisance species.” So what? Is Scott suggesting cats will be banned as pets? This kind of rhetoric seems overblown and will keep DC from addressing the legitimate problems caused by outdoor and feral cats. I’m fine with people having cats as pets but keep them in your house.

  • Makes sense

    Does someone have a link to the bill that we can read?

  • An aside, but the new name “humane rescue alliance” is totally awkward and hard to remember (fortunately, Googling “Animal shelter – animal rescue – humane society will still eventually get you there.) And the new logo is positively creepy. Especially since the old logo was great.

  • ET

    I love, love, love cats and have a lovely little Siamese myself, but cat colonies can be a problem. There has to be a humane way to deal with them however.

    Now if they took rats abatement as seriously….

    • pulpadded

      Trap and release. It’s pretty simple.

  • textdoc
  • parkviewdc

    I fully support this measure.

  • Mark

    Please send a link to the bill. I can’t seem to find it online.

  • Stephen

    I think CapHill23 hit the nail on the head:
    “The irony of humans labeling another species as invasive or a nuisance”.

    My observations from living in DC the past 25 years (and it know this is anecdotal) is this. I lived in a neighborhood for 10 years with no feral cats and I was constantly seeing rats the size of cats, sometimes in my back yard.
    I have lived in a neigborhood now with feral cats for 15 years. Interestingly enough, seeing a rat is a very rare occurrence. So, pick your poison….
    I agree, education is the key, proper trash collection and disposal, spay and neuter programs, giving people an option for adoption of unwanted cats instead of discarding them on the street.

  • NoCatsinAmerica

    Sounds good to me. My neighbors feed and house a feral cat colony in their front yard. There’s currently nothing I can do about the constant cat poop in my edible herb garden (despite the chicken wire all over it) from cats who aren’t being treated by a vet. The cats also hang out on my porch terrorizing my dogs. We talked about it with them. They think it’s fine because they try to only feed the fixed cats and love them very much.

  • Ally

    I have very mixed feelings on the topic and will have to ready the Bill. As a cat lover (and borderline cat lady), here’s my dilemma: Regardless of what some people have suggested above, outdoor (both feral and tame) cats ARE a huge threat to bird species. For this reason, my cat only goes outside on supervised visit in our backyard. Also, my cat is pretty much miserable because of the number of outdoor cats coming through our yard. We have a different one at our front door every freaking week — this stresses out my cat because he feels like his territory is under attack. So, I wish people would keep their pet cats indoors. As for the ferals, I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t want them put down, so I support catch-and-release, but I wish we could get the population down enough to make it feasible to transition some into pets. The bird population and my territorially-threatened pet cat, would really appreciate it.

    • Kathleen


      • Audrey C. Jackson

        Go to alleycat.org and you will find a wealth of information on TNR, caring for colony cats, and addressing community issues such as cats coming on your property and posing a nuisance in that way. There are solutions to the problem — take a look at this link: http://fixourferals.org/home/about/faq/10-tips-for-keeping-cats-out-of-yards-gardens/

        Colony cats seldom capture and eat birds, since they have a steady food source from the people who care for them. Cats are hunters, to be sure, but they are not killing birds off in the numbers that some people are giving. It’s just not true.

        • Anonymous

          Your 10 ways to keep away cats puts the burden of dealing with your choice on everyone else in the neighborhood.
          A better way to keep cats out of your garden is to not have feral cats in the neighborhood. Stop feeding them and start euthanizing them instead of neutering them. I’m glad DC is treating this as the nuisance that it is.

  • Kathleen

    The biggest problem is what’s the alternative?

    No group in the area is set up to round up all the cats and euthanize them. It’s too expensive and difficult. You’d have to hire dedicated staff for this program and they’d have to be able to cover the whole city in a relatively short period of time. Furthermore, there’s no way you could get all the cats to ensure that they don’t continue reproducing. Even if you got every now-feral/outdoor cat, people are constantly abandoning their animals outside when they move or if they get tired of them.

    You can’t stop TNR programs because then the feral/outdoor cat populations will just continue to grow unchecked. Plus, neutering can help eliminate nuisance behaviors like yowling and fighting.

    Cats obviously do kill birds and other wildlife – but so do buildings, cars, predators and people.

    So where do we go from here? What’s the alternative?

    • Anonymous

      Why do you think euthanizing is more expensive than neutering? Euthanized cats also don’t reproduce.

      • Kathleen

        You have to pay people who will catch them and bring them in to be euthanized as well as the vets who would euthanize them. HRA doesn’t currently have staff who could support this.

        To be effective, you’d have to blitz the city (otherwise they’d just keep reproducing), so you’d need additional animal control officers/staff to round up the cats.

        Admittedly, we should be trying to blitz the city for TNR now, but again, they don’t have the staff to do it.

  • Ashley Post

    Can someone confirm if this link contains the correct Council Members for us to contact? I just want to ensure I’m contacting the right people.


  • Ashley Post

    Does anyone have a link to Bill 21-386?

  • Diane

    I vote against this law. Cats of all kinds are smart, beautiful animals. They provide a lot of us comfort and love. They heal depressed people and they should not be killed. Murders are not ethinized. Cats did not ask to be homeless. They need our help.

  • Dr. Saundra Braxton

    This is an awful idea. I have fed feral cats for ten years and they keep rats away.The rat abatement program is not sufficient. this should not happen. If they go through the humane society program,they are not a problem.What about the humans who put them out and are irresponsible.

  • This is wrong on so many levels. You can’t just wipe out a species because you are annoyed or find them annoying..


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