New Hampshire Lawmakers Decide Whether Cats With FIV Can Be Adopted

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The New Hampshire state budget will be voted upon on Thursday, and a provision that will allow shelters and rescue organizations to transfer cats diagnosed with feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is back in the bill after Senators removed it last month.

Related: What Is Feline Leukemia?

Animal advocates have pushed for this provision, as it removes the current law that prevents shelters and rescue organizations from transferring pets with contagious illnesses. Under the current law, shelters or organizations either have to care for such cats indefinitely or euthanize them if they can’t get them to a state that will allow such transfers.

Lindsay Hamrick is the New Hampshire state director for the Humane Society of the United States and she says that those specific illnesses pose no risk to humans or other animals. More, the transmission rate among other cats is low, and the issue is urgent as there are cats who have been diagnosed positive and need to be put in positions that they can be adopted and cared for.

The provision was removed because some officials felt it would be better addressed in a separate bill, and not as part of the budget, but when advocates educated lawmakers, and flooded legislators’ emails and phones with support, they put it back in for the vote on Thursday.

Hamrick says that the viruses affect about two percent of cats, and often don’t require treatment. That said, with current provisions, there is little able to be done with the cats but euthanasia. Some shelters keep cats as their ‘sanctuary residents’ but they can’t socialize with other cats and basically have to be imprisoned when they may be able to be adopted if the law was different.
Advocates shared stories with legislators about their FIV positive cats who’d lived long and happy lives in spite of the FIV, and without any special medication or care. While it is understandable to want to prevent contagious animals from being released, these illnesses are not like rabies, and cats can live long lives with the right families.
Kansas is the only other state that has laws similar to New Hampshire’s when it comes to transferring these cats, and advocates are partnering with officials there as well, according to Hamrick. The NH Department of Agriculture, New Hampshire Veterinary Medical Association, and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association all back the bill. Hamrick says that if it fails to pass, they will introduce new legislation next year, but hopes they don’t have to so cats in need now can be served.

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