LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Delaware legislation needed to protect cats

The following letter was sent to Gov. John C. Carney Jr.

Dear Gov. Carney,

I hope you are well. We’re hearing from many of our thousands of Delaware members and supporters who are deeply concerned after reading news reports detailing the abandonment of a sick kitten by an officer with the Office of Animal Welfare (OAW). The officer responded to a resident’s call about a kitten.

The animal was unable to eat or drink and was suffering from a badly infected eye that was described by resident Kurt Herring as having “goo scraped and matted across [it]—in fact, there was no eye that I could see.” The officer reportedly drove this ailing animal to another area and abandoned him or her “in the woods.” We respectfully request that your office order a criminal investigation into the incident, which surely violated Delaware state law.

Delaware Criminal Code § 1325 Cruelty to Animals prohibits the abandonment of any domestic animal. The term “abandonment” “includes completely forsaking or deserting an animal originally under one’s custody without making reasonable arrangements for custody of that animal to be assumed by another person.” OAW officers are not exempt from the code.

We also again urge you to veto House Bill (H.B.) 235, which proposes to remove minimal legal protections currently provided to cats in the state and require shelters to abandon them. Please consider that when Herring initially filed a complaint with the OAW about the kitten who was abandoned, he reports that he was told that “feral cats don’t go to shelters.”

Cats — whether they’re feral or socialized, sick or well — are domesticated animals who can’t survive for long on their own and endure painful and gruesome deaths from disease, infected wounds, car strikes, attacks by animals and people, freezing, and other causes when abandoned outdoors.

In areas in which animal shelters have become derelict in their duties to protect animals and the public — this sick kitten may well have had rabies or another disease transmissible to humans — in favor of touting low euthanasia rates, incidents of cruelty to animals are rising. Laws protecting cats — and the public from roaming cats — in particular are sorely lacking in Delaware.

We urge you to request that legislation be drafted to require cat owners to provide their felines with minimal responsible care — including sterilization, microchipping, licensing, and humane containment — and to veto H.B. 235. In light of this case, we also hope you’ll consider asking that legislation to increase the penalties for animal abandonment be immediately introduced.

Teresa Chagrin
Animal Care and Control Issues Manager
Cruelty Investigations Department

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