Cats and the Law
New York State Law Protects All Cats
Help Stop Animal Cruelty—Please Report It
"If you see something, say something."
Westchester Animal Cruelty Hotline
Cats Are NOT Wildlife
Under New York State law, cats are NOT considered wildlife and do not fall under environmental conservation law (see New York Environmental Conservation Law [section 5.e.(2)]). They are considered companion animals under New York State's Agriculture and Markets Law (see next section).
NY Animal Cruelty Laws That Protect Cats
All cats, whether they are pet cats living in our homes or feral cats living on the streets, are considered companion animals under Article 26, Section 350 of New York’s Agriculture and Markets Law and are protected by the animal cruelty provisions set out in Section 353, Section 353-a, and Section 355. Cats cannot be shot, poisoned, drowned, or killed by any means other than lethal injection by a licensed professional. It is also a violation of Article 26 to trap cats in one location and release them in another location where sustenance (food and water) will not be provided. (Note that relocating cats should be done only as a last resort and that best practice protocols must be strictly followed.)
Laws are only as good as their enforcement, and that's why animals need us to be their voice and report it when we witness or suspect animal cruelty. Here are some definitions to help you identify cruelty. If you're usure if what you've witnessed is cruelty or not, report the incident anyway.
What Is Neglect?
Neglect is the failure to provide for an animal's basic needs and takes many forms, including:
Lack of clean food or water—Depriving any companion animal of sustenance (food and water) is cruel and unlawful.
Abandonment—Animals die every year when people move out of their residences and simply leave their animals behind. Keep an eye out for abandoned cats around recently vacated homes, especially if the former residents moved suddenly. Animals kept in cages are often overlooked upon a resident's sudden passing and may suffer as well.
Inadequate shelter—Extreme heat or cold temperatures can be deadly, and conditions can change quickly, causing suffering or even death of an animal. If you see an animal with inadequate shelter in extreme temperatures or conditions, report it immediately.
Lack of veterinary care—Untreated wounds demand immediate attention, and emaciation, scabs, and hair loss can be signs of untreated diseases. If you can, alert the owner to the animal's condition and direct them to local animal care agencies for help. If the owner does not address the animal's condition, contact the authorities.
Hoarding—Housing more animals than a person is able to adequately care for is considered severe neglect.
Leaving pets in vehicles—When reporting pets left in parked vehicles in warm weather, time is of the essence! Even if the outside temperature doesn't seem hot, an animal in this situation could be minutes away from death or irreversible organ damage. If you can't immediately locate the owner, call local authorities with your location and the make, model, and license plate number of the vehicle.
Poisoning cats is a felony in New York State. Punishment for this crime is up to two years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Report any suspicious cat deaths immediately. If possible, wrap the body in doubled-up plastic trash bags and store it in a cool, safe area until Humane Law Enforcement officers can collect it.
Beating and Physical Abuse
If you witness direct physical violence toward an animal, immediately report the incident to authorities. Use your best judgment when deciding whether to intervene, but do not become physically involved in the situation. Even well-intentioned actions could compromise the investigation process in cases of suspected abuse.
Please don't hesitate to report animal cruelty.
And whenever possible, and it is safe to do so, document the incident with a cell phone camera.
For crimes in progress and emergencies, call:
911, the Westchester Animal Cruelty Hotline (914-941-7797), or your local police precinct
In cases of suspected cruelty or neglect, call:
Westchester Animal Cruelty Hotline: (914) 941-7797