SCHENECTADY COUNTY The Schenectady County SPCA won’t pursue criminal charges for people participating in a controversial method of feral cat population control.
Matthew Tully, now former chief humane officer for the Schenectady County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, announced on Wednesday, Dec. 28, the agency wouldn’t arrest anyone engaging in “trap, neuter and return.”
The act, commonly referred to as TNR, is when someone humanely traps feral cats, has them spayed or neutered and vaccinating against rabies and then returns the animals to their colony. Engaging in TNR is a crime under state law and is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and possibly a fine up to $1,000.
“Nothing has caused more controversy than that advisory that we weren’t going to press charges,” Tully said on Friday, Dec. 30. “We took this stance because this law in particular is an area of extreme controversy in the animal community.”
In the past several weeks, Tully said the SPCA received two calls related to instances of TNR practice. Police officers are required by law to make animal cruelty arrests, but since SPCA officers are not police officers they’re not required to make an arrest.
“The reason why this is causing such a stir is because it is a common practice in this area,” Tully said. “There are a lot of well intentioned people trying to control the feral cat population and one of the few ways to do it is this way.”
Tully said he felt the SPCA’s limited resources could be better used in other areas.
“We think that this is just a weird area of law that is just so hotly contested that we don’t want to get our resources in,” he said. “We are a very specialized charity, we are not police … we are not obligated to investigate everything that comes in our way.”