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Bowie, MD 20718
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Last Updated:
7/24/2014 6:10 PM
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What the Law says about Feral Cats
in Prince Georges County, Maryland

What is the intent of the law in the State of Maryland with regards to feral cats?

Md. Code. Sect. 10-602. Legislative Intent.

    It is the intent of the General Assembly that each animal in the State be protected from intentional cruelty, including animals that are:
    (4) feral;

(Feral cats, as other animals, are legally protected from cruelty.)

I have been told not to feed feral cats. Can I be forced to stop feeding them?

Md. Code. Sect. 10-604. Abuse or neglect of animal.

    (a) Prohibited.- A person may not:
        (2) deprive an animal of necessary sustenance;
        (3) cause, procure, or authorize an act prohibited under item (1) or (2) of this subsection;

(No. It is unlawful to cause an animal to be deprived of food.)

In Prince Georges County, what types of animals are covered by the law?

P.G. Co. Statute. Sec. 3-101. Definitions.

    (11) Animal shall mean every non-human species of animal, both domesticated and wild, ...

In Prince Georges County, is a feral cat considered to be a domestic or a  wild animal?

P.G. Co. Statute. Sec. 3-101. Definitions.

    (43) Feral shall mean animals existing in the wild or untamed state, i.e., wild.

If I feed a feral cat, then do I own it?

P.G.F.F. and its attorney have been searching for a statue that says that, but we can’t find it anywhere.  Please ask the person who is telling you this to tell you what statute supports this statement.

If I feed a feral cat, am I keeping or harboring the animal?

P.G. Co. Statute. Sec. 3-101. Definitions.

    (50) Keeping or harboring shall mean the act of, or the permitting or sufferance by, an owner or occupant of real property either of feeding or sheltering any domesticated animal on the premises of the occupant or owner thereof.

(Feral cats are considered to be wild under the statue. Keeping or harboring does not apply to feeding birds, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, etc. either.)

Is Trap-Neuter-Return illegal?

This is another statement that we can find no support for in either the Maryland State Code or the Prince Georges County Statute. Please ask the person who is telling you this to provide the statute that is being used to support this statement.

If I return a feral cat to its original location, am I abandoning the cat?

P.G. Co. Statute. Sec. 3-101. Definitions.

    (1) Abandon shall mean to desert, forsake, or absolutely give up an animal without having secured another owner or custodian for the animal ...

(This assumes that you are the owner of the animal to begin with.)

Are feral cats living in a colony considered “running at large”?

P.G. Co. Statute. Sec. 3-135. Animals at large prohibited.

    (a) It shall be unlawful for the owner or custodian of any animal ... to permit the animal to run at large ...
    (c) The owner of any animal running at large shall be held strictly liable for a violation of this statute, ...

(Running at large applies only to owned animals.)

Isn’t the practice of Trap-and-Kill a cruel way to deal with feral cat populations?

P.G. Co. Statute. Sec. 3-101. Definitions.

    (35) Cruelty shall mean any act of commission or omission whereby physical harm or unjustifiable pain, suffering, or death is caused or permitted, including failure to provide proper drink, air, space, shelter, or protection from the elements, veterinary care, or nutritious food in sufficient quantities, with respect to an animal. ...

(After decades of demonstrating that Trap-and-Kill is ineffective at controlling feral cat populations, along with the demonstrated success of Trap-Neuter-Return projects, many of which have become official policy, the continued killing of feral cats is, in deed, unjustifiable. Trap-and-kill could easily be considered cruelty under this statute.)

This material is presented for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be legal advice.