NYC Dept. of Health Mandate to Regulate TNR May be Repealed

Neighborhood Cats testifies at 8/17 hearing, supports amendment to Local Law 59

August 18, 2012

Local Law 59, passed by the City Council in 2011, relieved the city of its obligation to build full service shelters in the Bronx and Queens. In addition, the law required the Dept. of Health (DOH) to issue regulations concerning the practice of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) in New York City. The Dept. of Health is now asking that Local Law 59 be amended to repeal its obligation to issue any TNR related regulations.

A hearing on the proposed amendment was held on Friday, August 17, 2012 before the City Council Health Committee. Neighborhood Cats believes that a needless threat to the continued development of TNR in New York City was introduced when the Dept. of Health was ordered to regulate its practice. In our view the private animal welfare community has ably fostered the growth of a successful city-wide TNR program. At the hearing, Neigborhood Cats offered testimony strongly urging Council members to vote in favor of the amendment to Local Law 59. To read a copy of our testimony, see below. 

Others testifying in support of the proposed amendment included The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, the Mayor's Alliance for New York City's Animals, SaveKitty Foundation, Humane Society of NY, Staten Island Feral Initiative and Animals Saved by Grace. 

The City Council's decision is expected within the next few weeks. We will share further information as it becomes available.

Neighborhood Cats statement
August 17, 2012
City Council Health Committee
Re: Amendment of Local Law 59 (2011)

Neighborhood Cats, more than any other organization, is responsible for the growth of Trap-Neuter-Return in New York City. We were the first to introduce TNR on an organized basis back in 2000 when we saw the tremendous need. Since then, we have trained over 4000 NYC residents to perform TNR safely and in compliance with local laws, resulting in the spay/neuter of tens of thousands of feral cats. We led the original TNR project on Rikers Island, and have performed similar projects with numerous city agencies, including the Departments of Sanitation, Transportation and Police, as well as the Medical Examiner's Office and the NYC Housing Authority. We operate free trap banks, provide hands-on assistance for TNR, and maintain a database tracking over 1300 cat colonies and 13,000 cats. Working with Animal Care & Control, we have an 85% save rate for TNR'ed cats turned into their facilities.

We are a national leader in the animal welfare field, having produced many of the primary educational materials on Trap-Neuter-Return. We host one of the most popular websites on TNR (, present at conferences throughout the U.S., offer grants and mentoring to other communities, and served as a consultant to The Humane Society of the United States when they decided upon their current pro-TNR policy.

Despite our preeminent position, the authors of Local Law 59 did not consult us when drafting the provisions at issue today. Had they asked our opinion, we would have said what we respectfully advise the Committee: the law mandating regulation by the DOH is completely unnecessary and potentially harmful. Unnecessary because the development of TNR in NYC has been a model of responsible, effective work by the private sector in cooperation with municipal authorities. Neighborhood Cats has always maintained a good relationship with the Dept. of Health and been able to resolve all issues that have arisen. After 12 years, there has not been a single case of serious injury or litigation resulting from our work. There is simply no need for government oversight in this area. Local Law 59, in its present state, could inadvertently disrupt a system that is functioning and developing well.

Therefore, we fully support the proposal to make DOH regulation permissive rather than mandatory, and to post available TNR resources on the DOH website. We would even recommend going one step further and repeal the provisions in question entirely. We thank you for the opportunity to express our views.