Among the bevy of new Illinois laws that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, is one requiring owners of cats to get them vaccinated for rabies.
What? There wasn’t already a law requiring vaccinating Fluffy? Rumors to the contrary, Senate and House amendments kept the kitty-vaccination bill in the legislative dog pound until August, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker put his metaphorical paw print on it with a signing.
Vaccination of dogs has long been mandated under state law. The cat amendment requires every owner of a cat that is a companion animal 4 months or older to get it inoculated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Furthermore, every such cat that is a companion animal shall have a second rabies vaccination done within a year of the first.
The law does not apply to feral cats. A feral cat is defined as one that is born in the wild or is offspring of an owned or feral cat and is not socialized, or is a former owned cat that has been abandoned and is no longer socialized, or one that lives on a farm.
So, the rabies requirement is that the cat be a “companion” and not be “feral.” Can a feral be a companion? What if your little Simba is not socialized with other humans, but with only one human in their life: you? Does Simba thus remain feral? Can wild-born Simba make his favorite human an “owner?” This is what lawyers and litigation are for — to clean up mangled definitions in legislation.
As with dogs, cat owners may be exempt from the rabies requirement if their vet states in writing that the rabies inoculation would threaten Fluffy’s health.
Unlike dogs, inoculated cats aren’t required to be tagged by the vaccinating vet. Cats are special.
Inoculated cats do get a certificate from the vet, which is to comply with any registration requirements adopted by a county. Each county is authorized under state law to create its own rules for registration of companion animals and the penalties for violating such rule.
The vaccination registration requirements for inoculated cats don’t apply to feral cats who have been brought to a vet for veterinary care (such as when a good neighbor traps and brings in a feral for neutering or spaying thereby advancing the policy of trap-and-release to control feral cat populations). But a vet is required to issue a certificate of inoculation to the person who brought the feral in for care.
While the state law allows for impoundment of dogs “running at large,” no such thing applies to cats. Because, well, they’re special.
However, for any cat that is impounded for any reason, the owner may retrieve the cat only upon showing proof of current rabies inoculation, or upon paying for an inoculation if they can’t show such proof — and paying the fees and fines for the impoundment.
Perhaps cats aren’t that special after all. To mice and birds, however, they remain very special.
And behold, I saw a pale cat, and his name that sat on him was death, and claws followed with him.