April 27, 1998 98-R-0667
FROM: Susan Goranson, Principal Analyst
RE: Feral Cat Law
You asked for a summary of the feral cat law and for information on what penalty may apply for violators. The Office of Legislative Research is not authorized to issue legal opinions and this memorandum should not be considered as such.
The law allows towns to adopt two separate ordinances regarding cats. The first is specific to feral cats and it allows towns to require keepers of feral cats to register with the town. A town may fine violators up to $100. A town may also adopt an ordinance instructing cat owners to prohibit cats from doing damage or creating an offensive condition and allowing animal control officers to impound these cats. Violators of this ordinance are guilty of an infraction (CGS § 22-339d).
The law allows towns to adopt an ordinance requiring those who keep feral cats in residential or commercial areas to register with the town's animal control officer. The officer must give them information on the care and management of feral cats. They must register within one year of the ordinance's adoption. The law defines a feral cat as a free-roaming domestic cat which is not owned. A keeper is a person who, or organization that harbors, regularly feeds, possesses, or forbids an animal control officer from impounding a feral cat. The ordinance must require feral cat keepers to sterilize and vaccinate the cat against rabies. By law, cats must be vaccinated against rabies. The law specifies that if a feral cat is adopted from a town pound, its keeper is eligible for cat sterilization financial assistance under the existing animal population control program. The law allows the Department of Agriculture (DOA) commissioner to specifically solicit funds for sterilization of feral cats under this program which subsidizes the sterilization of cats and dogs adopted from pounds.
The law does not specify the penalty for violating this ordinance. But, the law allows towns to issue citations for violating local ordinances and regulations. (CGS § 7-148 (c)(10)(A)). The town must designate the ordinances and regulations it wants to enforce by citation and specify the officials who can issue them. The official can issue citations for fines of up to $100, unless the statutes specify otherwise.
CAT DAMAGE ORDINANCE
The law also allows towns to adopt an ordinance making it an infraction for a cat's owner or keeper to allow it to substantially damage property, other than its owner's or keeper's or cause unsanitary, dangerous, or unreasonably offensive conditions.
An infraction is punishable by fines usually set by Superior Court judges of between $35 and $90, plus an additional fee based on the amount of the fine and a $20 surcharge. An infraction is not a crime; thus violators do not have criminal records and can pay the fine by mail without making a court appearance.
The law allows animal control officers in towns with a cat damage ordinance to impound cats doing damage or creating an unsanitary condition. But feral cats identified as under the care of a registered feral cat keeper and cats under the owner's control cannot be impounded. The officer must follow the statutory standards that apply to dogs for holding a cat in the pound. The cat must be impounded, unless a veterinarian finds the cat so injured or diseased that it must be destroyed immediately. In that case, the officer may have the cat euthanized by a veterinarian or disposed of as directed by the state veterinarian.
The law requires an officer who takes a cat into custody to notify its owner or keeper, if known. If its owner or keeper is unknown, the officer must promptly publish a description of the cat once in the lost and found column of a newspaper which circulates in town. He must also identify the cat by tagging or some other manner approved by the chief canine control officer. If a cat in satisfactory health is not claimed by and released to its owner within seven days of the notice, the officer may sell it to someone suitable. The officer may hold the cat for a longer period to place it as a pet. If within this period the cat is not released to its owner or purchased as a pet, the officer must have the cat euthanized by a veterinarian or disposed of as directed by the state veterinarian. The law exempts anyone destroying such a cat from criminal and civil liability.
An owner or keeper, or his agent, can redeem the cat with proper identification. He must be able to identify the cat, pay a redemption fee, and pay the cost of the newspaper ad. The town may set the redemption fee through its legislative body, but it cannot be more than $15. If the owner or keeper does not redeem the cat within 24 hours of receiving notice of its impoundment or the newspaper ad, he must also pay the cost of its care and impoundment. If he does not redeem the cat within five days of receiving notice, he is guilty of an infraction (CGS § 22-332d).