American Association of Feline Practitioners

Veterinary professionals passionate about the care of cats

Free-roaming, Abandoned, and Feral Cat Policy

AAFP and AAHA Statement about 2016 Revised AVMA Free-roaming, Abandoned, and Feral Cat Policy

During the 2016 Winter Meeting of AVMA House of Delegates, Resolution 1 2016 was submitted to revise the AVMA’s statement on Free-roaming Abandoned and Feral Cats. Click here to view the proposed edits.

The AVMA Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) included representation from the feline, avian, and wildlife veterinary communities, who then facilitated the formation of an inter-entity subcommittee which also included members from the Committee on Environmental Issues (CEI) and the Council on Public health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine (CPHRVM) to review and update the policy. This inter-entity subcommittee worked actively over a period of two years with extensive deliberation, discussing and debating the language in this revised statement. The feline representative worked persistently and tirelessly to advocate for cats, yet due to the controversial issues there were still disagreements about the language and majority of the Committee approved the document. The resolution was then sent to the AVMA Board of Directors and then on to the AVMA’s House of Delegates for a final approval.  

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) submitted an amendment to the revised policy to remove the following statement:

“For colonies not achieving attrition and posing active threats to the area in which they are residing, the AVMA does not oppose the consideration of euthanasia when conducted by qualified personnel, using appropriate humane methods as described in the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals.”

Prior to, and during, the 2016 Winter House of Delegates meeting, the AAFP and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) strongly advocated in support of removing this statement from the final policy. The key messages used to advocate for removal of this statement included:

  • The foundation of AVMA policies historically has been evidence-based science. There is an absence of data providing evidence that euthanasia, when used as a means of population control, will reduce the number of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats. In fact, the limited data that does exist shows that colony numbers either remain stable or increase due to the ‘vacuum effect.’   
  • There is concern over the reputation liabilityand the negative public perception this statement may cause.
  • Including this statement conflicts with the efforts of the veterinary community, including AAFP, AAHA, and Partners for Healthy Pets, who have worked to promote the value of the cat by investing resources towards educating the public on the need for routine veterinary care for cats, as well as increased standard of care for cats.  
  • The majority of cats captured in a trap are very frightened, and frightened cats, just like all frightened animals, will commonly act very differently than they might otherwise. This may make it very difficult to identify at the time of capture whether a cat is truly feral, or whether it may be owned but allowed outdoors, owned and escaped outdoors, or abandoned but adoptable. It is not uncommon to capture non-feral cats when trapping. Including this statement might unintentionally provide qualified personnel the approval to euthanize potential owned cats that might not be microchipped or perhaps not scanned to see if they are microchipped.

The AAFP was able to bring this amendment to the floor of the AVMA House of Delegates. Although the AAFP Leaders and Representatives to the AVMA advocated strongly for removal of this statement, exhausting all efforts, the statement was accepted by majority of the House of Delegates.

We encourage review of the AAFP’s Position Statement, which has been endorsed by AAHA, on Free-roaming, Abandoned, and Feral Cats


Lazenby, B.T, Mooney, N. J., & Dickman, C.R. (2014). Effects of low-level culling of feral cats in open populations: a case study from the forests of southern Tasmania. Wildlife Research, 41, 407–420.

Schmidt, P.M., Swannack, T.M., Lopez, R.R., & Slater, M.R. (2009). Evaluation of euthanasia and trap–neuter–return (TNR) programs in managing free-roaming cat populations. Wildlife Research, 36, 117–125.