A4504, a new bill introduced in the NJ Assembly, would establish the “Stray Animal Study Commission,” to:

(1) identify and study stray animal and animal control issues in the State, including issues surrounding stray and feral cats colloquially referred to as “community cats” and “cat colonies,” and any funding shortfalls with regard to the issues identified; (2) study, explore, and develop solutions to (a) stray animal or animal control problems identified, and (b) problems in municipalities concerning feral cats, community cats, or cat colonies; and (3) provide recommendations for legal action, legislation, and possible funding sources address stray animal or animal control problems in the State, including, but not limited to, those associated with feral cats, community cats, or cat colonies.

While feral cats remain a concern generally, with the ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and the economy, it does not seem to be an opportune time to redirect the NJ Department of Health’s resources to such a study.

Additionally, the proposed 11-member commission fails to include interested, knowledgeable stakeholders, such as feline and avian veterinarians and environmental and wildlife organizations. These additional members o can be identified from the organizations listed in the NJDOH’s publication “Free-Roaming and Feral Cats,” including: American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Bird Conservancy, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Association of Avian Veterinarians and New Jersey Audubon Society.”

Proposed members currently only include: the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Community Affairs, and the Executive Director of the State Commission of Investigation, or their designees, who shall serve ex officio; a representative of the Humane Society of the United States, a representative of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a representative of the New Jersey Animal Control Officers Association, and a representative of a county prosecutor’s office, and four directors or chief operating officers of animal shelters or pounds in the State.

The management of feral cat populations is highly controversial and concerns the health and welfare of feral cats, wild birds, the environmental impact and public health concerns.

Millions of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats exist in the United States. Most of these cats will suffer premature mortality from disease, starvation, weather extremes, or trauma, or euthanasia. Free-roaming and abandoned and feral cats are non-native predators and cause considerable wildlife destruction and ecosystem disruption, including the deaths of hundreds of birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. They also pose a threat to public health. Zoonotic concerns include viral (e.g., rabies), bacterial (e.g., Yersinia pestis [plague], Fancisella tularensis, Campylobacter spp., Bartonella spp.), fungal . . . and parasitic diseases.
More information is available on AVMA and AAFP’s websites.

When the time is right to form this commission, necessary and additional members should be added, as described herein, .