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Virginia Senate passes Trap Neuter Return bill in spite of irrational opposition from Senator Stuart

Posted on Friday, February 05, 2021
orange cat with a tipped ear with thought bubble, "Are you kitten me?" over image of Senator Richard Stuart

During Tuesday’s Senate floor session, Senator Lynwood Lewis eloquently presented his bill, SB1390, to clarify Virginia code surrounding Trap Neuter Return programs and add the first requirements for records kept by TNR volunteers. We agree with him that his bill is in fact a very good bill to strengthen the programs already in place around the Commonwealth.

In response, Senator Richard Stuart was recognized. Though Senator’s own amendment to SB1390 had been rejected the day prior, he rose again, saying he could not resist. “Like catnip,” responded Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

The Senator from King George stated that he considered following the collective wisdom of the legislative body and considered supporting the bill, but that Senator Bill Stanley of Franklin’s stance had stuck with him. Though Senator Stuart’s remarks brought laughter, the fallacy of his claims about TNR cannot be ignored.

First of all, SB1390 does not authorize Senator Stanley or anyone else to, as Senator Stuart said, “catch my cat so he can have his way with it.” Not that we’re sure that Senator Stuart actually has a cat, though if he does we would urge him to keep his cat safely indoors, and please to have that cat spayed or neutered. Pet cats belong indoors with their families and should also be sterilized. But that’s not the focus of SB1390, which clearly defines a community cat as one who is unowned.

Those who volunteer to TNR community cats go to great lengths before trapping any newcomers to their colonies and setting up surgery appointments for those cats. Any time that it is feasible to identify a community cat as a displaced pet, that cat is eagerly reunited with his or her family instead.

Let’s say it again: Trap Neuter Return is for UNOWNED cats.

Secondly, Senator Stuart paints a picture for comic effect of “the Gentleman from Franklin … surreptitiously prowling around my home at night.”

Along with other things that SB1390 does not do is authorize trespassing. Not by the Gentleman from Franklin, and not by any TNR volunteer in any community anywhere else in the Commonwealth. Virginia’s trespassing and private property laws remain intact.

Regardless of what one may think of the Senator’s attempts at humor, let’s all disabuse him of the idea that opposing TNR will “save these cats from what these folks will do to them.”

What TNR volunteers do is use their own time and resources to care for cats who have no owner, who are already living outdoors on their own in every community. These volunteers make appointments for sterilization before humanely trapping unowned cats, sheltering them overnight, transporting them for their surgeries—during which they are also examined by a veterinarian and vaccinated against rabies—picking the cats up after surgery, again sheltering and observing them during recovery, and then release them to the location where they were trapped.

Not authorizing TNR does not save any cats (nor does it save any birds or wildlife, though conservationists have remained opposed without the offer of any suitable alternative) it only perpetuates the status quo. TNR is the only humane, ethical approach to the compassionate management of unowned, free-roaming community cats. Without TNR, these cats remain unvaccinated and able to reproduce, which leads to exponential population growth.

Fortunately, Senator Stuart did not prevail.

The Virginia Senate passed SB1390 on Tuesday with a vote of 26-Y, 13-N. Next week we will begin the process again of advocating for this bill in the House of Delegates. If your delegate serves on the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources committee, now is the time to contact her or him and urge support of SB1390. 

Visit whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov to find out who your Virginia Delegate is.

Tabitha Treloar and Roux (dog)

Tabitha Treloar joined the Richmond SPCA in 2005 as an admissions counselor and has been our director of communications since 2010. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and PRSA Richmond.

Tabitha and her husband live in Richmond with five Richmond SPCA alumni – two cats and three dogs.

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