Shelter Says Del. Doesn't Consider Cats Pets, Wants Change - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Shelter Says Del. Doesn't Consider Cats Pets, Wants Change

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A sign on the front door of the FSAC & SPCA (Photo: WBOC) A sign on the front door of the FSAC & SPCA (Photo: WBOC)

CAMDEN, Del. (WBOC)- Ask even a 5-year-old if a cat is a pet, they'll say, yes, of course, but according to one of Delaware's largest shelters, that's not quite how the state sees the animals.

There are certainly more state laws addressing dogs than laws on other animals people call pets, like cats. There are laws for dog control, dog licensing, and dangerous dogs.

Things are more complicated for cats, though, which can cause issues for shelters and communities.

The First State Animal Center and SPCA in Camden wants cats considered pets.

On its front door is a sign reading, "You love your cat like family... But they aren't even considered a pet." That sign urges people to help push for legislation to have cats recognized as household pets.

"Cats are considered free-roaming animals, and they're allowed to wander anywhere they want to go," said Kevin Usilton, executive director of the FSAC & SPCA.

Another sign on that front door explains because of that, the shelter is unable to take stray cats and only takes owner-surrendered cats for a fee, if space allows.

"There's no shelter in the state of Delaware that has open access for cats, and there's no shelter that helps with stray cats," Usilton said.

That's especially an issue for areas with feral cat colonies, like Whispering Pines in Lewes. Eva Morgans lives there. She says there used to be one cat. Now there are at least 20.

"They're going to the bathroom everywhere," she said. "There's feces all over the place. They're doing damages to properties, to vehicles."

Hetti Brown, head of the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare, disagrees with First State Animal Center and SPCA. She says the state does consider cats to be pets.

Brown says having systems for dealing with cats found outdoors is difficult. She says some are actually lost strays, but others are pets who are allowed to roam outdoors. Still more are feral, wild cats.

"That's why when you're putting services in place for cats, it's not as cut and dry as maybe programs for dogs," she said.

On the feral cat front, some communities in Delaware have had success with the a program called Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return. That system tries to reduce colonies by putting cats that now can't reproduce back into the community.

Even though dogs are called "man's best friend," there are actually more pet cats in America. Stats from the American Veterinary Medical Association show in 2012 there were 74 million pet cats and 70 million dogs.

The ASPCA says about 4 million dogs and 3.5 million cats enter shelters nationwide each year. The organization says a quarter of stray dogs are returned to their owners, but less than 5 percent of cats are.

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