Judge Rules That Feeding Feral Cats is Legal in Maryland

Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA
PO Box 1036, Bowie, MD 20718
(301) 262-6452 / www.PGFerals.org

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November 10, 2011

Timothy W. Saffell

Judge Rules That Feeding Feral Cats is Legal in Maryland

Upper Marlboro, MD. The Prince George's County Circuit Court ruled today that Animal Control Officers may not issue warnings or penalize people for merely feeding feral cat colonies. This decision is the result of a suit filed by Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA against Prince George's County.

Timothy W. Saffell, President of PGFF, SPCA, says "County residents have told us that they have been given an 'Incident/Investigation Report' by Prince George's County Animal Control Officers that says 'Feeding feral cats is illegal. You must stop. You may be fined if you continue.' "

"The Incident/Investigation Report form never included a citation to the section of the Animal Control Statute that was allegedly being violated" he continued. "We searched the law and could not find any prohibition of feeding."

The judge agreed. The judgment will be issued on December 9, 2011. Prince George's County may appeal but it is unlikely.

The attorney for PGFF, SPCA, Anne Benaroya, who has extensive experience in constitutional, administrative, and animal law and is co-founder of the Maryland Animal Law Center, said, "This is a big victory, not only for PGFF, SPCA, but also for feral cat caretakers who have been molested by Animal Control agencies around the state." She expects that other advocates will now be empowered to "stand up and talk back."

Ms. Benaroya points out that "When the government prohibits a citizen from engaging in a legal activity, it is a violation of that citizen's constitutional rights." Furthermore, she observes, "Now, with this judgment, if a County Animal Control Officer prohibits the feeding of feral cats, absent a demonstrable nuisance condition, the court can be called upon to issue an immediate restraining order."

"This decision does not affect any law that prohibits creating nuisance conditions, trespassing, etc. Ms. Benaroya adds, "This is just the beginning, and more work remains, since it does not apply to any jurisdiction where feeding outdoor animals is expressly prohibited by code or common law."


P.S. Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization supported by donations from individuals. Donations are tax-deductible.

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