What Do New Yorkers Need to Know About Cat Laws in the Big Apple?


Cat laws in New York State are in place to promote responsible and humane cat ownership. They cover key areas like licensing, leash requirements, breeding practices, sales, cruelty and neglect. Adhering to cat laws is important for protecting public health and safety, preventing nuisances, and ensuring the welfare of cats themselves.

As a pet owner in New York, it is crucial to understand and follow all relevant state and local cat laws. Responsible cat ownership requires proper licensing and identification, control over your pet’s activities, meeting their health and welfare needs, and acting in their best interests. Following NY cat laws demonstrates you are a conscientious community member and pet guardian.

Licensing and Registration

In New York, cats are required by law to be licensed in some localities, such as New York City and Nassau County. However, licensing laws are not consistent across the state.

New York City requires cats over 4 months old to be licensed. The license must be renewed annually. Licensing fees in NYC are $8.50 for spayed/neutered cats and $34 for unaltered cats. Failure to license a cat can result in fines.

To obtain a cat license in NYC, owners must show proof their cat has been vaccinated against rabies. Rabies vaccination is mandatory for licensing. Some exemptions may be granted for medical reasons.

According to animal rights groups, cat licensing laws are controversial. Licensing does not guarantee the cats’ welfare and some view it as a threat. Groups like Alley Cat Allies advocate against mandatory cat licensing and for voluntary programs instead.

Leash Laws

Cats are not required to be leashed in New York. There are no statewide leash laws specifically for cats. However, some local municipalities may have ordinances requiring cats to be leashed or restrained when outdoors. For example, New York City does not have a leash law for cats, so they can roam freely outdoors 1. The exceptions are areas like nature preserves where dogs and cats both must be leashed.

Leash laws typically apply only to outdoor cats. Indoor cats do not need to be leashed inside their homes. For cats with outdoor access, leash laws aim to protect them from cars, other animals, and getting lost. But opponents argue leashing cats makes them more stressed and likely to lash out 2. Overall, New York does not require leashes for cats statewide, but some local areas may have different rules.

Limit Laws

New York does not have any statewide laws limiting the number of cats a person can own. However, some local municipalities may set their own restrictions on the maximum number of cats per household. For example, New York City law generally limits households to no more than 19 companion animals total, including cats, dogs, and rabbits, though applicants can request a waiver for additional pets.

It’s important for cat owners in New York to check with their local town, city, or county to see if there are any municipal codes or ordinances restricting cat ownership. Some areas set limits between 3-10 cats per household before requiring a special kennel or cattery permit. Exceeding these limits without a permit may result in fines or having to surrender excess cats. Those planning to have a large number of cats should research local laws and ensure they comply.

In summary, while New York state does not impose a universal cat limit law, local municipalities often enact their own restrictions. Cat owners should verify that they are following all local cat limit and licensing requirements.

Breeding Laws

New York does have some regulations around cat breeding. According to the state’s pet dealer licensing laws, anyone breeding more than 9 female dogs or cats per year is considered a pet dealer and must obtain a license from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

To obtain a pet dealer license, breeders must comply with standards of care related to housing, sanitation, ventilation, temperature, lighting, humidity, spaciousness, waste disposal, disease control, and veterinary care. Breeders are subject to initial and periodic inspections of their facilities.

There are also requirements around record keeping, with breeders required to maintain health and disposition records for the animals in their care. Any person who violates these licensing and care standards may be subject to civil penalties.

While these laws provide some oversight for larger-scale cat breeding operations, there are currently no regulations governing smaller hobby breeders in New York. Some advocates have called for more comprehensive breeding regulations to improve standards of care.

Sale Laws

New York recently passed a law that will ban pet stores from selling cats, dogs, and rabbits starting in 2024. Under the new law, pet stores will only be able to offer animals from shelters and rescue organizations. The goal is to crack down on commercial breeding operations, sometimes referred to as “puppy mills,” and improve animal welfare.

Specifically, the law states that pet dealers cannot sell or offer for sale a dog, cat or rabbit in a pet store unless the animal came from an animal shelter, animal rescue group or some other “not-for-profit” organization. There are some exceptions, such as hobby breeders who sell directly to consumers and have no more than four breeding females.

This ban on retail pet sales follows a trend in many other states and localities, including California, Maryland, Maine, and hundreds of cities across the U.S. Advocates argue such laws will reduce impulse pet purchases and increase adoptions of shelter animals. However, some critics believe it could lead to an increase in unregulated online sales or make it harder for reputable breeders to find homes for puppies and kittens.

So in summary, New York’s new law imposes major restrictions on the retail sale of cats and other companion animals in order to promote animal welfare and adoptions. Pet stores will only be allowed to offer rescues and shelter pets by 2024. This could significantly impact both consumers looking to purchase pets and the pet industry in the state.

Sources: https://www.npr.org/2022/12/16/1143365678/new-york-bans-pet-stores-cats-dogs-and-rabbits

Abandonment Laws

In New York, it is illegal to abandon a cat under the state’s animal cruelty laws. Specifically, New York Agriculture and Markets Law §355 makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1000 to abandon any animal. Abandonment is defined as leaving an animal for more than 24 consecutive hours without providing for minimum care such as food, water, and shelter.

There have been efforts in New York to pass additional laws specifically targeting cat abandonment. In 2021, a bill called the New York Pet Responsibility Act aimed to make it illegal to abandon cats outdoors, but it did not pass the state legislature (Source 1). Animal advocates continue to push for stronger legal protections to curb cat abandonment in the state.

It’s important to note that abandoning cats is extremely cruel. Domestic cats lack survival skills to fend for themselves outdoors and face many risks including starvation, disease, extreme weather, and getting hit by cars. Cat owners struggling to care for their pets should instead reach out to animal shelters or rescue organizations for assistance rather than abandoning them.

Cruelty and Neglect Laws

New York has strong laws against animal cruelty and neglect. According to the ASPCA, animal cruelty is defined as intentionally or knowingly withholding food and water, failing to provide adequate shelter or protection from weather, abandoning an animal, transporting an animal in an inhumane manner, causing bodily harm or death, or neglecting to provide veterinary care for illness or injury.

Some examples of cruelty include beating, mutilating, torturing, killing without just cause, and overworking an animal. Neglect constitutes failing to provide basic care such as food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. According to lawyers.com, penalties for a first offense can include up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent offenses can lead to up to 4 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Cases involving companion animals like cats and dogs often lead to felony charges.

Declawing Laws

Declawing cats is banned in New York State under a law that went into effect in 2019. New York was the first state in the nation to outlaw this procedure, except for therapeutic purposes to treat a medical condition affecting the cat (New York Consolidated Laws, Agriculture and Markets Law – AGM § 351).

The New York law makes it illegal for any person to “surgically declaw or onychectomize any cat or other animal within the state, unless such procedure is deemed necessary for a therapeutic purpose by a licensed veterinarian” (NY AGM § 351). Therapeutic purposes include addressing painful medical conditions of the paw, infection, disease, injury, or abnormal condition directly affecting the claw that compromises the cat’s health. Routine or elective declawing is prohibited.

Before performing a therapeutic declaw procedure, the veterinarian must document the medical condition in the cat’s records and obtain written certification from the owner giving informed consent (NY AGM § 351). Violators can face civil penalties of $1,000 for an initial offense and $2,000 for subsequent offenses (NY AGM § 371).

New York’s declawing ban helps protect cats from unnecessary medical procedures that can cause pain and other adverse effects. By prohibiting routine declawing, the law aims to promote animal welfare and responsible cat ownership in the state.

Source: https://yourvetfriend.com/do-vets-still-declaw-cats/


In summary, New York has several important laws regarding cat ownership and treatment. All cats must be licensed and registered with local authorities. When outside the home, cats must be under the control of their owner, either via leash and harness or within an enclosure. There are limits on the number of cats that can be owned per household. Laws also govern cat breeding, sales, abandonment, neglect and cruelty. Declawing cats is prohibited under New York law.

Cat owners in New York have a responsibility to provide proper care and humane treatment for their pets. Licensing, regular veterinary care, identification and supervision are all part of being a responsible cat guardian. Following New York’s laws shows respect for cats as living beings deserving of compassion. With knowledge of the laws and a commitment to cat welfare, New Yorkers can enjoy positive relationships with their feline companions.

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