HB 235 protects community cats

Governor John Carney signs House Bill 23 to protect Delaware’s free-roaming cats

New Law Will Help Save More Lives by Reducing Population, Keeping Cats Out of Shelters

WILMINGTON, DE – Today Governor John Carney signs HB 235 into law to protect free-roaming cats in Delaware. The law states that free-roaming cats deserve the full protection of animal cruelty laws and that shelters have the full protection of the law to implement return-to-field programs. It will also protect caretakers who manage colonies of free-roaming cats.

This bill, which was nearly two years in the making, was a collaboration between Best Friends Animal Society, Brandywine Valley SPCA, Faithful Friends Animal Society, Delaware Humane Association, Forgotten Cats of Delaware, the Office of Animal Welfare,  the veterinary community, the wildlife community and the public.

The passage of HB 235 is considered a big win for free-roaming cats and caretakers in Delaware and will help save more lives.

The new law will humanely and effectively reduce the population of free-roaming cats in our communities via shelter-based sterilization and vaccination programs. This science-based, veterinarian-focused approach to population control has shown itself to be the only effective means of reducing the numbers of free-roaming, unowned cats. The bill also adds protections to ensure that animal cruelty laws apply to all cats, whether they’re owned or not.

The law also gives animal shelters the needed flexibility to implement programming that will help them save lives and adopt more animals. By exempting animals participating in a cat sterilization return-to-field program from the typical “stray hold” period, shelters won’t have to use their extremely limited space to house cats they know have no owner and are not candidates for adoption. This frees up cages and resources that can then be used to find homes for other adoptable cats and dogs.  This will have a direct impact on the number of animals leaving shelters alive.

The bill also brings needed record-keeping to shelters regarding free-roaming cats. Over time and with a large enough sample size, animal advocates will be able to track the success of each shelter’s return-to-field program. That information can help shelters direct resources to the programs that are most helpful at achieving their mission of saving animals and finding homes for adoptable pets.

About the Best Friends Animal Society

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading national animal welfare organization dedicated to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters. In addition to running lifesaving programs in partnership with more than 2,200 animal welfare groups across the country, Best Friends has regional centers in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City, and operates the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters nationwide from 17 million per year to about 1.5 million. That means there are still more than 4,100 dogs and cats killed every day in shelters, just because they don’t have safe places to call home. We are determined to get that number to zero by the year 2025. Working collaboratively with shelters, rescue groups, other organizations and you, we will end the killing and Save Them All. For more information, visit

To become a fan of Best Friends on Facebook, go to Follow Best Friends on Twitter (@BestFriends) and Instagram (@BestFriendsAnimalSociety).

About the Brandywine Valley SPCA

Founded in 1929, the Brandywine Valley SPCA is the first open admission no-kill shelter in Pennsylvania and Delaware. In 2017, the BVSPCA cared for more than 14,000 stray, owner-surrendered, wayward owned, and abused and neglected animals while achieving a 96% live release rate. The BVSPCA provides animal protective services for Chester County and much of Delaware County in Pennsylvania, and it holds a five-year contract with the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare to provide state-wide animal services for dogs. Animals are placed through four adoption centers: the West Chester Campus, the New Castle Campus, the Georgetown Campus, and a PetSmart® Everyday Adoption Center in Dover. In addition, the BVSPCA provides families with safety net and low-cost veterinary services at its three clinic locations: the Malvern Animal Health Center, the New Castle Animal Health Center, and the Georgetown Animal Health Center. Later this year the BVPCA expects to open a new Pet Resource Center in Dover and a Rescue and Rehab Center in Georgetown.

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