Many people look after feral cats. They are volunteers in TNR programs. They know the area well. They know their neighbours and their likes and dislikes. One such person is a guy called Quake Martin. He looks after a colony of feral cats in a place called Village One in Modesto, California, USA.
He writes in a post on Facebook that ‘someone/my neighbor is poisoning the feral cats in my Village One neighbourhood in Modesto, CA’. That’s an interesting comment to make because he refers to “my neighbor”. He is not 100% sure apparently.
If he is sure that a person he knows is poisoning his feral cats then he can announce it wherever he wants to because it is the truth. This prevents a statement becoming defamatory. A person makes a defamatory statement when it is untrue and the subject of the defamatory statement suffers damage to her reputation and perhaps financially. And the statement has to be disseminated to the public.
Mr Martin contacted the local police department. The sick feral cat was taken to his veterinarian where he is now hospitalized. Antifreeze had poisoned the kitten which can be fatal as it causes kidney damage. Mr Martin personally trapped this cat for neutering two years ago. Martin works in conjunction with The Cat Network of Stanislaus County.
He writes that last week he found a dead cat on the sidewalk. The cat had suffered no traumatic injuries and now more cats are turning up missing.
He is reaching out to other animal caregivers as well as the SPCA and other humane societies for help. He doesn’t want money. He just wants the poisoning to stop and is warning people to be mindful of the poisoner in the Village One Area in Modesto. He warns that people should not let their dog or cat roam around the area unsupervised. The feral cats will be the animals poisoned not dogs because there is a certain band of individuals in America and in the UK who think that feral cats spread disease and should be eliminated. They don’t have the same feelings about dogs. Cats are to be hated but dogs are not.
Correctly, Mr Martin says that the poisoner is engaging in acts of cruelty. But to return to the question the title: can you name a person you know is poisoning feral cats? The answer is yes if you are telling the truth. You cannot be sued in defamation if you are telling the truth. Actionable slander or libel are misrepresentations or lies spread to damage a person’s reputation. Neither can you be sued in defamation if you say to a person individually when confronting him that he is poisoning cats. This is because your statement is not disseminated to other people. Therefore the person cannot suffer reputational damage.
If the alleged criminal can be filmed surreptitiously or if an admission can be extracted from him that of course would support your statement that he is poisoning feral cats.
There is one last point to make and it’s this. Very few people sue in defamation because it is expensive and problematic. Therefore if you make a mistake in making a defamatory remark it is highly likely that you will get away with it.