Law Wants Animal Advocates Arrested – SPCA Won’t Do It

Schenectady SPCA

Trap Neuter and Return Program Deemed Unlawful

Schenectady County SPCA chief humane law enforcement officer Mathew B. Tully announced today that the not for profit organization will not arrest anyone engaging in the controversial “trap neuter and return” (TNR) of animals. TNR is the method of humanely trapping feral cats, having them spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies, and then returning them to their colony to live out their lives. According to well known animal law expert and attorney, Jonathan Schopf who wrote a law review on this topic for the Albany County Bar Association (see attached), TNR is currently a crime under New York State Animal Cruelty laws punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine up to one thousand dollars. Tully pointed out a section of the law that requires police officers to make animal cruelty arrests but allows SPCA officers discretion on whether an arrest should be made.

“The animal cruelty laws explicitly give SPCA officers the ability to not arrest persons who have violated animal cruelty laws. After reviewing the facts and circumstances surrounding several TNR programs in Schenectady and Schoharie Counties, I have directed our officers to not make arrests,” stated chief Tully. TNR is the only proven humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies and involves a colony caretaker who provides food and adequate shelter and monitors cats’ health. TNR has been shown to be the least costly, as well as the most efficient and humane way of stabilizing feral cat populations. TNR helps the community by stabilizing the population of the feral colony and, over time, reducing it. At the same time, nuisance behaviors such as spaying, excessive noisemaking and fighting are largely eliminated, and no more kittens are born. Yet, the benefit of natural rodent control is continued.

Tully pointed out that the non-arrest policy only pertains to feral cats and not stray cats. He explained the difference as a feral cat is primarily wild-raised or has adapted to feral life, while we define a stray cat as someone’s pet who has become lost or has been abandoned. Stray cats are usually tame and comfortable around people. They will frequently rub against legs and exhibit behaviors such as purring and meowing. In contrast, feral cats are notably quiet and keep their distance. Stray cats will often try to make a home near humans – in car garages, front porches or backyards. Most are completely reliant on humans as a food source and are not yet able to cope with life on the streets.

“I am not encouraging people to violate the law. People who engage in TNR can still be arrested by the police and prosecuted by the District Attorney, but our SPCA has limited resources and we need to prioritize our law enforcement and investigative resources on things that matter such as arresting people who intentionally cause harm to animals,” said chief Tully. “I have personally written to assemblyman Tedisco and Senator Farley to ask them to amend the current laws to allow TNR programs carried out by properly incorporated humane organizations.”

The Schenectady County SPCA Emergency Hotline is 518-755-9517. All complaints remain confidential and we do not investigate anonymous calls. The Schenectady County SPCA and all of our sworn and armed humane law enforcement officers are volunteers. To help crackdown on animal cruelty please donate online at

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