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cat related laws

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I don't know if this is the right forum to ask this...

Does anyone know anything about laws relating to trapping cats. We live in the country in the mountains. Our neighbor periodically calls animal control to request a cat trap.

We have a bad history with our neighbors :witch: and our county is corrupt. (It was actually featured on 20/20 five years or so ago because of how corrupt it is.) We don't have a good relationship with animal control regarding past issues involving our dogs, our neighbors and the corrupt system.

So, if any of our cats are trapped and end up in animal control's custody, we might as well forget about the cat. In the last two years we have lost two cats this way.

I recently discovered that our neighbors requested a trap in the second half of February. They publish some of the 911 calls in a sheriff's log published in a newspaper that comes out bimonthly. When this first started going on we only had one neighbor on our street, so we knew when our street was mentioned who was calling the sheriff. We may have lost another cat, except she has disappeared for several days before and come back, so not enough time has passed to know for sure.

Do our neighbors have the right to trap our cats? Is there laws about keeping your cats on your own property? And how do you do that? We have almost 4.5 acres. One of our cats, the cat that belongs to me, specifically, is neutered, so he hopefully won't go far. We want our cats to hunt and keep away the mice and rats. Does having them spayed or neutered even matter as far as the law is concerned when it comes to trapping? (I don't have the money to fix my moms cats and I can't force her to do it, although I bug her all the time about it.)

I live in California. Mariposa county... but don't trust them to follow their own laws! :madalien: I have always had a deep respect for the law, which was tainted when we moved here.
post #2 of 8
If your animal causes damage to your neighbour's property then you might be liable for damages.

A cat like any other animal is considered a property or a chattel under the eyes of the law and a cat is not different than a toaster or an oven in terms of property.

So if your cat goes over and is captured I would think that there are several options available.
1) Tort of Conversion.
2) Trepass to chattel.

Tort of conversion is the more serious of the offence and the law views the killing of a pet even if the pet is in your neighbour's property and the neighbour thinks that the pet(dog) is about to attack their livestock. Alternatively even if the person found a dog running out in the wild and authorises it being put to sleep that person will be liable.

Trespass to chattel on the other hand requires some form of actual injury. Although if one meddles with the pet such that it interfere and deprive you of the use of the pet it should be sufficient.

That is a just my rough guess and it could be way off the mark. But logically you should talk to your neighbour and inform them about your pets and show them pictures of it. That way they are on notice. Also try to get a chip for the cats that way the animal control would again be on notice for the ownership of the pet. The idea is that if every one knows that the pet belongs to you they may not claim that they thought the animal was a stray. Any actions by them may then be seen as a form of intentionally infliction of emotional harm. Again you met want to ask someone from California since I am merely grasping in the dark here.
post #3 of 8
You asked at the right time! We have a special forum open this month "Ask Animal Control" where an expert is guest hosting the forum and answering questions of just this nature.

I'll move this to that forum for you so Mark will see it.
post #4 of 8
Sorry for the long and involved codes attached but these are the applicable codes. The short answer to your question, "Can my neighbor trap cats", is YES. If your cats stray onto the neighbors yard, they are subject to impoundment by the local authorities (whose responsibilities are listed below) and you are subject to fines and costs. As long as the neighbor turns the animal over to the animal control division and does not do away with it in some diabolical manner, they are within their legal rights to remove unwanted visitors in a humane fashion. Collars, tags, and a microchip are all effective tools to identify your pet but from reading the MC Sheriff's website, don't expect a call even if Fluffy is wearing tags. My suggestion, Fluffy is gone for 2 days, check the shelter and CALL immediately.

These are from the California state statutes and penal codes.
----------------------------------------------------------------31752. (a) The required holding period for a stray cat impounded
pursuant to this division shall be six business days, not including
the day of impoundment, except as follows:
(1) If the public or private shelter has made the cat available
for owner redemption on one weekday evening until at least 7:00 p.m.
or one weekend day, the holding period shall be four business days,
not including the day of impoundment.
(2) If the public or private shelter has fewer than three
full-time employees or is not open during all regular weekday
business hours, and if it has established a procedure to enable
owners to reclaim their cats by appointment at a mutually agreeable
time when the public or private shelter would otherwise be closed,
the holding period shall be four business days, not including the day
of impoundment.
Except as provided in Sections 17006 and 31752.5, stray cats shall
be held for owner redemption during the first three days of the
holding period, not including the day of impoundment, and shall be
available for owner redemption or adoption for the remainder of the
holding period.
(b) Except as provided in Section 17006, any stray cat that is
impounded pursuant to this division shall, prior to the euthanasia of
that animal, be released to a nonprofit, as defined in Section 501
(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, animal rescue or adoption
organization if requested by the organization prior to the scheduled
euthanasia of that animal. In addition to any required spay or
neuter deposit, the public or private shelter, at its discretion, may
assess a fee, not to exceed the standard adoption fee, for animals
adopted or released. The public or private shelter may enter into
cooperative agreements with any animal rescue or adoption
(c) During the holding period required by this section and prior
to the adoption or euthanasia of a cat impounded pursuant to this
division, a public or private shelter shall scan the cat for a
microchip that identifies the owner of that cat and shall make
reasonable efforts to contact the owner and notify him or her that
his or her cat is impounded and is available for redemption.

31752.2. (a) Upon relinquishment of a cat to a public or private
shelter, the owner of that cat shall present sufficient
identification to establish his or her ownership of the cat and shall
sign a statement that he or she is the lawful owner of the cat.
(b) Any person who provides false information pursuant to this
subdivision about his or her ownership of the cat shall be liable to
the true owner of the cat in the amount of one thousand dollars

31752.5. (a) The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(1) Domestic cats' temperaments range from completely docile
indoor pets to completely unsocialized outdoor cats that avoid all
contact with humans.
(2) "Feral cats" are cats with temperaments that are completely
unsocialized, although frightened or injured tame pet cats may appear
to be feral.
(3) Some people care for or own feral cats.
(4) Feral cats pose particular safety hazards for shelter
(5) It is cruel to keep feral cats caged for long periods of time;
however, it is not always easy to distinguish a feral cat from a
frightened tame cat.
(b) For the purposes of this section, a "feral cat" is defined as
a cat without owner identification of any kind whose usual and
consistent temperament is extreme fear and resistance to contact with
people. A feral cat is totally unsocialized to people.
(c) Notwithstanding Section 31752, if an apparently feral cat has
not been reclaimed by its owner or caretaker within the first three
days of the required holding period, shelter personnel qualified to
verify the temperament of the animal shall verify whether it is feral
or tame by using a standardized protocol. If the cat is determined
to be docile or a frightened or difficult tame cat, the cat shall be
held for the entire required holding period specified in Section
31752. If the cat is determined to be truly feral, the cat may be
euthanized or relinquished to a nonprofit, as defined in Section 501
(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, animal adoption organization
that agrees to the spaying or neutering of the cat if it has not
already been spayed or neutered. In addition to any required spay or
neuter deposit, the pound or shelter, at its discretion, may assess
a fee, not to exceed the standard adoption fee, for the animal

597f. (a) Every owner, driver, or possessor of any animal, who
permits the animal to be in any building, enclosure, lane, street,
square, or lot, of any city, city and county, or judicial district,
without proper care and attention, shall, on conviction, be deemed
guilty of a misdemeanor. And it shall be the duty of any peace
officer, officer of the humane society, or officer of a pound or
animal regulation department of a public agency, to take possession
of the animal so abandoned or neglected and care for the animal until
it is redeemed by the owner or claimant, and the cost of caring for
the animal shall be a lien on the animal until the charges are paid.
Every sick, disabled, infirm, or crippled animal, except a dog or
cat, which shall be abandoned in any city, city and county, or
judicial district, may, if after due search no owner can be found
therefor, be killed by the officer; and it shall be the duty of all
peace officers, an officer of such society, or officer of a pound or
animal regulation department of a public agency to cause the animal
to be killed on information of such abandonment. The officer may
likewise take charge of any animal, including a dog or cat, that by
reason of lameness, sickness, feebleness, or neglect, is unfit for
the labor it is performing, or that in any other manner is being
cruelly treated; and, if the animal is not then in the custody of its
owner, the officer shall give notice thereof to the owner, if known,
and may provide suitable care for the animal until it is deemed to
be in a suitable condition to be delivered to the owner, and any
necessary expenses which may be incurred for taking care of and
keeping the animal shall be a lien thereon, to be paid before the
animal can be lawfully recovered.
(b) It shall be the duty of all officers of pounds or humane
societies, and animal regulation departments of public agencies to
convey, and for police and sheriff departments, to cause to be
conveyed all injured cats and dogs found without their owners in a
public place directly to a veterinarian known by the officer or
agency to be a veterinarian that ordinarily treats dogs and cats for
a determination of whether the animal shall be immediately and
humanely destroyed or shall be hospitalized under proper care and
given emergency treatment.
If the owner does not redeem the animal within the locally
prescribed waiting period, the veterinarian may personally perform
euthanasia on the animal; or, if the animal is treated and recovers
from its injuries, the veterinarian may keep the animal for purposes
of adoption, provided the responsible animal control agency has first
been contacted and has refused to take possession of the animal.
Whenever any animal is transferred pursuant to this subdivision to
a veterinarian in a clinic, such as an emergency clinic which is not
in continuous operation, the veterinarian may, in turn, transfer the
animal to an appropriate facility.
If the veterinarian determines that the animal shall be
hospitalized under proper care and given emergency treatment, the
costs of any services which are provided pending the owner's inquiry
to the agency, department, or society shall be paid from the dog
license fees, fines, and fees for impounding dogs in the city,
county, or city and county in which the animal was licensed or if the
animal is unlicensed the jurisdiction in which the animal was found,
subject to the provision that this cost be repaid by the animal's
owner. No veterinarian shall be criminally or civilly liable for any
decision which he or she makes or services which he or she provides
pursuant to this section.
(c) An animal control agency which takes possession of an animal
pursuant to subdivision (b), shall keep records of the whereabouts of
the animal for a 72-hour period from the time of possession and
those records shall be available to inspection by the public upon
(d) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, any
officer of a pound or animal regulation department or humane society,
or any officer of a police or sheriff's department may, with the
approval of his or her immediate superior, humanely destroy any
abandoned animal in the field in any case where the animal is too
severely injured to move or where a veterinarian is not available and
it would be more humane to dispose of the animal
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for the responses. I wish that we had known some of these laws a long time ago.

The previous owners of our house gave us their cat because they were moving back east. She was spayed and tame, but in the warmer months she would disappear for weeks at a time and return hungry and thirsty.

Later on, when we got other cats we weren't concerned if we didn't see one for several days and they almost always returned. (We had one that took off shortly after my dog treed him and never came back. He was only 3 months old, but from the first day we had him at about 7 weeks he was anti-social with humans.)

I guess now if I don't see one for two-days I'll have to assume "the worst" and call animal control. I really don't know if approaching our neighbors is a good idea. If they were neighborly in nature than that would be the best course of action. With these people, I would worry that they would file a report with animal control every time they saw one of our cats, just because the cat belongs to us.

Would I have any legal recourse if our neighbors knew they were our cats and were continuely trapping them, assuming the cats are not causing damage to their property (where we have to keep reclaiming the animals and paying fines)?
post #6 of 8
lovemypets, I feel for you. It's hard when you have neighbors like that. I know you may not want to, but I think you should approach them and try to smooth things over with them. Suck up to them if you have to. Flatter them. Apologize to them for anything you or your cats might have done to upset them. Act like you're the nicest and most caring person in the world (not that you're not). Pretend you're in a movie and hope to win an Academy Award for your performance. You can catch more flies with honey (at least sometimes). Show pictures of your cats to them and mention their names and alittle bit about their personalities, as thy451 suggested. Try to explain the situation and how you are helping these animals, and how hard life could be for them if you don't help them. Maybe squeeze out a few tears for them. The welfare of your cats may be at stake. And if they're still idiots, at least you tried something. Then when you get home you can scream and have a few stiff drinks to calm you down.

I know you've had bad experiences with them, but why do they want to trap your cats? Did you ever find out?

Jill and Candy
post #7 of 8
I haven't plowed through the CA Penal Codes quote (but thanks, Mark!).

I have a suggestion for situations where there isn't good rapport with neighbors/government agencies: consider mediation.

Mediation is a process that you can engage in to really resolve disputes WITHOUT having to resort to legal measures. In mediation, you work on the matters that REALLY matter to all parties, and NOT what the law says or doesn't say.

I just noticed in the Maddies Fund newsletter that a community in FL used mediation not long ago to resolve their differences and start to make progress toward No More Homeless Pets. I have had some mediation training (which also involves *being* mediated) and I am sold on the concept.

In a lot of areas it won't even cost you anything to go to mediation, because nonprofit organizations of community mediators provide the mediation services.
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for your advice. You've all given me a lot of food for thought. When I had my mom read the state laws regarding cats, she wasn't very happy, now I've just got to convince her of the merits of approaching our neighbors.
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