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

(914) 941-7797

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).

A licensed Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO, aka wildlife trapper) can NOT legally trap cats under their New York State trapper license. As stated in the NWCO training manual, Domestic Animals section:

Domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, are not covered by the Environmental Conservation Law because they’re not wildlife species. They are regulated under NYS Agriculture and Markets regulations, Articles 26 and 7. Even if they’re feral and behave like wild animals, they still are considered domestic species. Although every town is legally required to have a dog control officer, the same isn’t true for cats. Some areas may have inadequate services and customers may turn to you for help with feral cats. Your NWCO license does not allow you to handle any domestic animals. [Emphasis added]

If an NWCO traps a cat, they have two options:

If you learn of any NWCO handling cats for any reason, ask for their name and license number (by law, they have to give it to you) and find out where the cats are being taken, then immediately report the incident to the Department of Environmental Conservation: (844) 332-3267 (open 24/7).

If an NWCO wants to trap cats, they must do so as a private citizen and not under their trapper’s license. They also can not use their labeled traps. (All NWCOs must label their traps.) Like all residents of New York, they must abide by state laws that protect cats (see below).

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:


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