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Fee-waived adoptions on all pets! Monday, 9/13 through Sunday, 9/19. Adopt today »

black and white cat with an ear tip

LifeLine’s Shelter-Neuter-Return Policy

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To save the lives of outdoor cats, LifeLine follows an SNR protocol based on best shelter practices and proven research by Million Cat Challenge.

What is SNR?

SNR is similar to TNR. The biggest difference is that cats are brought, either by community residents or Animal Enforcement, to our shelters instead of to a veterinary clinic. Then, we vaccinate, spay or neuter and ear tip (to identify them as spayed/neutered) all healthy friendly or feral outdoor adult cats. Next, when they recover from surgery, we return the cats to their original location.  However, if the weather is bad or they need more time to recover, we keep them for a longer period of time.

Why do we release friendly cats who people might otherwise adopt?  Friendly cats who come into our shelter are often indoor/outdoor cats or outdoor cats who people remove from their areas and bring to us. However, keeping them at the shelter actually decreases their chances of finding their families. In fact, returning healthy free-roaming cats gives them 10-50 times greater success of reunification than cats at the shelter.

Additionally, bringing cats into the shelter is often detrimental to cats and their families. Consequently, in poor communities, only 40% of residents in the lowest income bracket ever find their lost cats.

Here is more information about returning friendly cats and supporting information from Million Cat Challenge.

SNR Exceptions

Not all cats are eligible for SNR.  We will not return cats to areas that are unsafe or if they are:

  • Microchipped
  • Declawed
  • Sick or injured 
  • Kittens under 8 weeks old 
  • Part of a bonded pair, and one isn’t eligable for return

What about kittens?

Kittens must meet specific requirements to be eligible for SNR. These include the age of the kitten, caregiver requirements and more.

Kittens8 weeks old

Will not be returned.  Instead, we will transfer them to rescue groups or foster homes until they are old enough for adoption. 

Kittens  8-to-16 weeks

We will only return them if:

  • They are unsocialized and cannot be socialized with reasonable effort within LifeLine’s capacity, AND
    • Caregiver requirements* are met, AND
    • The caregiver agrees to be present at the specific time the kittens are returned.
  • They are friendly, but the caregiver specifically requests return after surgery, AND
    • The caregiver requirements are met. 


Kittens  17-to-24 weeks:

  • Have the same stipulations as kittens 8-to-16 weeks, except the caregiver doesn’t have to be present at time of return.

* Caregiver requirements

A “caregiver” is a person who agrees to provide ongoing care and monitor the kittens after they’re returned. This person must agree to be a caregiver prior to surgery and agree to a drop off time when they’ll be present. The return location can be at an individual’s home or at a cat colony as long as the caregiver provides food and water regularly and has shelter available for the cats.

LifeLine’s Shelter-Neuter-Return policy only applies to cats. We will not release dogs to roam in the community.

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