A proposed law in Erie County is designed to get stray cats into homes faster.

This would change the waiting period to put cats up for adoption from five days to three, something shelter leaders and workers believe will improve the lives of shelter cats overall.

The “Feline Adoption Promotion Act of 2019” (viewable here) would get Erie County in line with state law. New York has already made this change at the state level but required individual counties to opt in.

SPCA Serving Erie County president and CEO Gary Willoughby was the lone speaker at a public hearing Wednesday about the proposal to decrease wait times of stray cats in shelters before they can be adopted.

He supports the change for the sake of the animals.

“It’ll actually cost us money, but it’s a good thing because it’ll reduce the stress on the cats,” Willoughby said. “In the summertime, once in a while, our waiting list can get up to two or three months. So if somebody has a cat they have to bring to us, we simply don’t have the space in the summer time.”

The proposed law would not change the intake and vetting process of making sure a cat is healthy and ready.

“Most of the time, that means they’re still going to be there a few more days, waiting to get spayed or neutered; getting all their shots and all that stuff, so very unlikely they’re going to be out of the building in three days,” he said. “It just is stopping that needless delay of having them sit there for more and more days getting stressed out…when we can’t do anything to them.”

The change would affect municipal shelters only, like the SPCA and the City of Buffalo animal shelters, but leaders at non-profit shelters agree with the sentiment because the quicker a cat finds a home, the quicker another one in need can be brought in.

“I don’t have a lot of room to be holding cats for five days. The cats that I get, I can pretty much tell that they don’t belong to anybody. Most of them are not spayed, not neutered,” Chris Wiehe, shelter manager at A Purr-fect Fit Animal Rescue, said.

Asked if shortening the time in which a cat is held could hurt a family trying to find it, Wiehe says social media has come a long way in expediting how owners find pets. She referenced a recent case of reuniting a lost cat whose picture was posted on Facebook with its owner.

“Within an hour, people were like, ‘Oh I know that cat, I’ve seen that cat on WNY Lost & Found,’” explained Wiehe, who also posts pictures of new cats as soon as possible. “So we put our animals up, we don’t wait until they’re ready for adoption. We’ll put them up and say ‘look what we took in today.’”

To further support the idea that shortening the wait time will likely not hurt people looking for lost cats, Willoughby said the SPCA took in more than 7,000 cats over the last three years. Only 118 were claimed over the same time period by families looking for a lost cat.

Legislature chairman Peter Savage, who sponsored the bill, expects to put the bill up for a vote during the week of March 25.