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  • Writer's pictureGina Scrofano

Hope For NH Cats with Leukemia and FIV

Due to an oversight within the language of current NH law, cats that test positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (FeLV) cannot legally be adopted from an animal shelter. Not only does this create a burden on shelters due to medical testing expenses as well as long-term housing, but more importantly, it leads to the unnecessary euthanasia of otherwise healthy animals. However, there is hope for FIV and FeLV positive cats, and that hope lies within a small exemption included in this year's NH financial budget proposal.

The Language

Current Law (RSA 437:10 II): "The transferee may accept a dog, cat, or ferret that has a noncontagious illness that has caused it to fail its examination by a licensed veterinarian for an official health certificate under paragraph I."

Proposed FIV/FeLV Exemption (HB 2-FN RSA 437:8 IV: Page 9, Lines 1-4): "The transferee may accept a dog, cat, or ferret that has a noncontagious illness, or feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus, which has caused it to fail its examination by a licensed veterinarian for an official health certificate under paragraph I."

What is FIV?

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is similar to HIV infections in humans, as it weakens the immune system; reducing the ability to fight off disease.

FIV is not contagious to humans or non-felines, however, because the very low risk of transfer from cat-to-cat exists, it technically falls under the category of contagious when interpreting current NH law.

Deep bite wounds primarily cause the cat-to-cat spread of FIV as opposed to everyday grooming, which is very rare. Although FIV is found in the saliva of positive cats, it does not survive outside the body for long and is easily destroyed by normal cleaning and most disinfectants.

What is FeLV?

Feline Leukemia Virus also inhibits a cat's immune system, increasing susceptibility to diseases such as lymphosarcoma, a cancer of the lymph system.

FeLV is transferrable from cat-to-cat through mutual grooming. However, it is not contagious to non-felines or humans, and the adoption of a cat with FeLV does not put a person's health at risk.

Like FIV, FeLV does not survive outside the body for long and can be killed by cleaning with most disinfectants.

Years of Potential

FIV positive cats have the potential to live happy lives for years without experiencing symptoms. Although FeLV positive cats do have a shorter life expectancy, why not allow them to live the remainder of their lives with suitable and loving families?

Protection For Adoptee's

NH law requires that all NH animal shelters provide documentation regarding any diagnosed illness that an animal has, which the adoptee must sign for in acknowledgment. That law will ensure the adoptee is aware of the cat's FIV or FeLV diagnoses, has the appropriate environment for such a cat, and the information necessary to provide proper care.

Happy Lives at No Cost

Although this proposed exemption oddly appears in HB2, it is not uncommon for non-financially impactful legislature to end up in a budget proposal. You may rest assured that supporting this will not cost the state any funds.

"In a 2015 survey, over 85% of New Hampshire shelters were forced to euthanize FIV positive cats in their care because of the legal inability to transfer these cats into adoptive homes."(1)

The FeLV/FIV Exemption may not consist of many words, and may not cost NH residents any money, but it will certainly have a beneficial impact on many lives.

After the advocacy of many NH residents, the NH Committee of Conference has confirmed that the FeLV/FIV Exemption will be included in their version of the budget.(2)(3) On June 22nd, the Full House and Full Senate will vote on that budget to finalize the process. (Please also see important note below)(4)

BEFORE June 22nd

Call Your NH Senator And Representative(s) And Kindly Urge Them To Keep The FeLV/FIV Exemption In Place.

Find your Senator Here

Find your Representative Here

Example: "Hello, my name is (name) from (town), New Hampshire. I'm reaching out to kindly urge you to ensure that the exemption allowing for the adoption of cats with Feline Leukemia and FIV from NH animal shelters remains in the state budget. The exemption will prevent unnecessary euthanasia of cats and provide them with the opportunity to be placed into suitable homes, at no cost to the state."

As always, be sure to communicate with kindness and clarity.

(2) Update June 8, 2017: After failed attempts to amend HB 2-FN, it was laid on the table by the House. The Senate introduced their version of the bill (HB 517), which did not include the FeLV/FIV Exemption.

(3) Update June 13, 2017: After receiving calls and hundreds of emails from NH residents advocating for the exemption, members of the Committee debated. On June 13th, the Senate exceeded to the house regarding the amended version of the 'Transfer of Animals and Birds' section of HB 2-FN. That section includes the FeLV/FIV Exemption, successfully adding it back into the Committee's version of the budget.

(4) Important Note: Although the final version of HB 517 includes the cat exemption, the bill also includes undesirable changes to the inspection process. These were not changes included in the FeLV/FIV Exemption, but are included in the entire ‘Transfer of Animals’ section of the bill, which was proposed by the NH Dept. of Agriculture. This will change mandatory inspections of pet vendor/licensees, including commercial breeders, to voluntary. This will greatly reduce the amount of inspections, if any, that are completed on the properties of those with a license to sell or breed animals. The changes also will not require that an inspection is completed prior to a licensee obtaining such license. Animal welfare organizations and advocates, along with StraightTwist, are very concerned with these changes, and have done all in our power to prevent them from being included in the final version of HB 517 and will continue to do so. If the Full House and Full Senate vote to pass HB 517 as is, we will vigorously address this matter in the 2018 legislative season. StraightTwist will keep you updated and let you know how you can help when the time comes. Feel free to express your concerns regarding the inspection changes to your Senator/Representative(s), however please keep in mind it is important that we express that the FeLV/FIV Exemption remains in place.


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