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  • Writer's pictureKathy Gabrielescu

How to Gain Access to Property Where You See Cats

Over decades of feeding and trapping of thousands of cats, I have never even considered doing so without obtaining permission of property owners in advance.

If I spotted cats at a business and wanted to help, I would start by knocking on the doors or call the business owners.


At apartment complexes, I would go find a rental office or manager.


It never occurred to me that my love of cats meant I was exempt from trespassing laws or that I was permitted to interfere with others' enjoyment of private property.


Despite the way I have opted to engage with property owners, I am seeing a new and dangerous trend that harms both cats and people.

 
Whiskers has many free TNR voucher applicants that end up refusing our help. How can this be?

They cannot participate in the program because against the law and our rules, they are sneaking onto private property in the middle of the night to dump cat food in other people's lawns and parking lots, or want to trap without asking permission of property owners.

Still others have told us that they obtained permission from relatives, landlords, and property owners, only to be caught lying. Not only are they unable to finish colonies and let vouchers expire, they are breaking the law and eliminating any chance of a property owner cooperating. Why lie to a nonprofit? We spend hours communicating with hundreds of people a week in a close-knit community.

We do find out... and lying never helps cats in the long run.

Trespassing in the name of "good deeds" seems to be rampant.

 
Why permission? There are only 2 scenarios that play out when opting to feed on property you do not own.
 

The first: Sneak onto the property when no one is there. You're doing something good; anyone who disagrees is wrong. They are bad cat haters.


Middle-of-the-night Sneak 'n' Feed never ends well in the long run. Why?

Sooner or later you will get caught and have to beg for permission to be there. Once you're caught, the owner knows before you even open your mouth:

  • You are willing and able to break the law,

  • You have no respect for his ownership of the property in question,

  • You have no need to gain legal access to others property.

You are starting the conversation from a very bad position.

Consider for a moment how you would react if someone else had started jumping your fence to plant a garden in the yard you own.

 

The second (spoiler alert: this is the correct way):

Contact the property owner or landlord and present the following suggestion.

"I have noticed quite a few stray cats roaming on and around your property and recognize that this can become an issue for you as the numbers increase. I would like to help. If you would be willing to allow me access to your property during hours that are convenient for you, I would be willing to take responsibility for getting all of the cats spayed, neutered and vaccinated. I will do this for free if you are willing to allow me to feed in an out-of-the-way location on your property so that I am able to establish a schedule and ensure every cat is fixed. This will cut down on spraying, smells, yowling, and will greatly reduce if not eliminate kittens you may find."

The approach and script above benefit both you and the cats:

  • You will have time to sit and monitor without the fear of having the police called on you.

  • If you find other feeders who do not want the cats fixed, you can once again speak to the property owner and ask for assistance in addressing the person who wants to breed cats on their property.

  • You will be able to communicate with others about how they can help with the TNR, or at a minimum, cooperate with it without fear of getting caught.

 

In nearly every case for which I have presented the second option to a property owner, they have said yes. I have shown respect for them and their property and offered them free assistance in addressing an issue they were already facing.

Please always consider the position of the property owner and how you would feel in their shoes. Would you prefer someone ask to come over for lunch, or break in to your kitchen and make a snack?

We know every situation is unique and have decades of experience with every kind of neighbor, cat lover and cat hater. If you need help coming up with what to say, reach out to us--there is always an answer when you're willing to be upfront and communicate.


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