Alaska Board of Game (of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game) vice chairman Nate Turner said:
“We’re certainly not encouraging people to go out and start shooting these cats if they think they’re feral. Try to contact the owner, try to do the right things, take a little bit of time with what you’re trying to do. But then again, if there are feral cats that are clearly feral…that’s a case where I can see where a person can dispatch one of these cats and it shouldn’t be a question of penalty associated with that,” he said. “But don’t go through the neighborhood shooting cats.” (Peninsula Clarion)
His statement is impractical and contradictory. It shows muddled thinking. He is advocating shooting feral cats without sanction provided the shooter is clear that the cat is feral. But the only sure way you can verify a cat is not owned and feral1 is to check for a microchip and/or make quite extensive enquiries. You have to at least check for a microchip which means taking the stray cat to a veterinarian or animal shelter.
A shooter is not going to do that before deciding if he can shoot the cat. Therefore the whole statement is fatally flawed.
He should have said:
“You can’t shoot cats because you might be shooting someone’s pet”.
Alaska Animal Welfare Law
An an aside, the animal welfare laws of Alaska are subtly altered from most of the state animal welfare laws. The lawmakers have introduced the need to inflict ‘prolonged physical pain’ before the act can be deemed criminal. The word ‘prolonged’ opens the door to shooting cats. Most state animal welfare laws do not include this word.
However, the outside cat is protected by practicalities as mentioned above. You cannot shoot cats even in Alaska where they have a slightly backward attitude towards animal welfare because you might well shoot someone’s cat and that has to be both a possible crime under AS 11.46.482. Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree (criminal damage) and a tort in civil law (you’d be sued in the civil courts for compensation). The domestic cat has two laws criminal protecting him/her: animal welfare and criminal damage.
The only weakness in the criminal damage law vis-a-vis cats is that the damage has to be at least $500. Purebred cats are protected but moggies are not. However, you could not be sure about the cat’s pedigree at a distance and the cat’s value is also linked to the emotional connection between cat and owner. This should push it above $500.
1. Also there is a subtle difference between ‘feral’ and ‘stray’. You can’t tell the difference at a distance without careful investigation.
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