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  • Writer's pictureKathy Gabrielescu

Q. When is a TNR Program not a TNR Program?

A. When it's an Ordinance!

There seems to be some confusion regarding "TNR Programs" and "TNR Ordinances" that is causing issues for those who feed cats and the towns in which they live. As always, the cats ultimately pay the price.

We want to clarify the difference between the terms "program" and "ordinance." We suspect many people think they are free and clear to feed cats once a TNR ordinance is passed, but that could not be further from the truth--the passing of an ordinance recognizing TNR is just the start of a long list of responsibilities for feral cat feeders...with no solid plan of how it will get done.

Know the law. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse that stands up to enforcement.

In all NJ municipalities, ordinances define what the town expects of those feeding. As you can see in our previous posts, the lists can be long, and include everything from registering the colony to bi-annual updates to the board of health.

Examples of Things that Ordinances Do:

  • Stipulate limitations on feeding, such as not outside daylight hours

  • Define terms, including "owner," "feral cat," or "feral cat caretaker"

  • Require registration of colonies

  • Require establishment of committees

  • Establish fines for noncompliance

  • Stipulate powers of animal control officers with regards to feral cat colonies

  • Describe corrective action required following a nuisance complaint

  • List responsibilities of cat caretakers and animal control officers

Things that Ordinances Do Not Do:

  • Implement TNR on your behalf

  • Assign a contract with a vendor to provide TNR

  • Establish mechanisms for executing and funding TNR

  • Provide details related to procedures for town-sponsored or supported TNR

Often TNR ordinances are confused with TNR programs, especially by towns seeking public approval from cat lovers. We've seen the joyous posts on social media where groups announce "adoptions of TNR programs" while residents breathe grateful sighs of relief once TNR is introduced to their municipal codes. Sadly, this is misinformation--only ordinances are introduced, and in many cases, towns have not even established TNR or Feral Cat Committees specified by their own ordinances. Like so many issues, TNR programs have become political tools.

Unlike ordinances, programs define how the TNR process is to be carried out if the town is providing a true TNR program. Details include:

  • Does the town trap for you?

  • Does the town fund TNR? What parts?

  • Does the town transport your cats to the vet?

  • Do you sign a release?

  • How do you register to obtain the services?

  • What forms do you fill out for surgical consent?

  • Is there a wait list? How do you get on it?

In our ongoing research, we are finding that most of the time, there is NO program in place, and that towns are mistakenly calling their TNR ordinances "programs."

While not stated on any websites, cat feeders are obligated to comply with the ordinance on their own and use outside sources to do so. Towns will often direct people to rescues and volunteers who can certainly not handle the full load of all unfixed cats in any given municipality.

In addition, most towns from which we have obtained public records do not have open admission shelters. They likely will not take kittens from you.

The vast majority of towns provide no funding; larger cities allocate funds in amounts so small that they do not even begin to address the TNR needs of their populations.


While municipalities need to represent both sides of any issue, no town is in a position to fund a "do-it-all-for-you" program. Do not despair!!! We are here to teach you how to become a feral cat caretaker!

"Borrow a Beast" today!

We have the equipment and experience to make you a true colony caretaker.


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