Chairwoman Jaeckle and Members of the Board of Supervisors,
I am Tabitha Treloar, the director of communications for the Richmond SPCA, a non-profit organization with more than 15,000 constituents living in Chesterfield County. I appreciate very much the opportunity to share with you my organization’s concerns related to this proposed zoning amendment effectively limiting the number of cats a resident could keep to six without a special exception. I also am grateful to Supervisor Winslow for reaching out to us yesterday in order to discuss with our chief operating officer the Richmond SPCA’s concerns.
While we understand that a single situation involving a substantially large number of cats at a residence in the county has served as the catalyst for this proposed amendment, we do not believe that an amendment that would result in a number of unintended consequences affecting a much larger universe of cats and residents who care for them is an advisable response.
One of the Richmond SPCA’s chief concerns regarding this amendment is that it increases the risk for cats to become homeless. For any residents who already own more than six cats, if they are not able to get a special exception from zoning (either because it is resource prohibitive for them to do so or because they are denied the special exception), their companions will be at risk. Over the past five years, the Chesterfield Animal Control agency has taken in, on average, only 100 owner surrendered cats a year. Last year, less than 20 percent of the county animal shelter’s cat intake was attributable to owner relinquishments. That number is undoubtedly at risk of increasing as a result of this amendment, as would be the number of owner relinquished cats taken in by our charitable organization, which takes in far more owner relinquished cats already from Chesterfield County residents than does the county’s own shelter. We are working very hard, and at great expense, to deliver programs of pet retention to keep pets in the loving homes that they have and out of shelters, and this amendment is counterproductive to those efforts.
Additionally, while we have been told that this proposed amendment is not designed to interfere with or dissuade in any way Trap-Neuter-Return or feeding efforts for feral cats in the county, we have concerns that feral cats would ultimately be negatively impacted. As you know, feral cats are not susceptible of being kept, however, that hasn’t prevented another local government from using zoning ordinances such as the one being considered here tonight as a tool to prevent the responsible delivery of care to feral cats. We oppose any efforts that could result, whether intended or unintended, in a reduction in responsible management of feral cat colonies.
Furthermore, we have concerns that this amendment could be problematic for non-profit, foster based rescue organizations as well as organizations that operate physical shelters such as the Richmond SPCA but who also have volunteers who provide temporary foster care to homeless animals in their own homes. It would not be unusual for a foster care volunteer to have in his or her are at one time seven or more cats. That could easily be a mother cat with a litter of six kittens for instance. We depend upon the crucial support of foster care families to help us save the lives of thousands of cats and kittens each year, and we fear that many individuals would be hesitant to engage in this essential work with the passage of this amendment.
Lastly, what oftentimes happens when a locality adopts an amendment such as this, it gets replicated elsewhere so there are a number of ordinances that result from one or two localities. This could further compound the negative, unintended consequences communitywide.
These are among the most important reasons we oppose the amendment and would welcome a delay of a decision tonight so that members of our organization could meet with you to have a fuller discussion and answer any questions you have about the concerns we have raised. Thank you for your consideration of that request.