Categories: feral cats

City legislators encounter the problem of differentiating between feral and domestic cat

This little feral cat story, from Philip Joens of the Des Moines Register, highlights a problem which is at the root of many attempts by city legislators/administrators to better manage the feral cat population in their jurisdiction. Jefferson City in Iowa, USA, have drawn up draft legislation which would allow residents to trap cats (the intention is to trap feral cats) and “do with that cat as they see fit”. In other words the draft legislation would allow residents to trap and kill cats that are wandering outside.

© Jefferson City Council/Special to the Register The Jefferson City Council listens to Tom Colvin from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa Tues. July 14, 2020.

Of course, animal rights advocates and cat lovers are not going to accept it because of the obvious reason that you may be trapping and killing someone’s domestic cat companion. That, of course, would be the crime of criminal damage and theft. A city council cannot write legislation which encourages criminal behaviour.

The legislation proposes that cats are checked for a microchip but does not make it obligatory. The draft law includes humane euthanasia or taking the cat out of the town’s limits and abandoning the animal there. Hardly humane. Certainly misconceived.

Sadly, it is a failed attempt. It won’t get past a proper examination. Cat advocates want the city to promote and perhaps fund, in part, TNR programs. Dealing with feral cats successfully really boils down to properly manage TNR programs encouraged and supported by the local authorities. Any other solution nearly always encounter problems of one sort or the other such as example I have referred to above.

Difficulties in differentiating between feral and domestic cats at a distance

The difficulty of differentiating between domestic and feral cat is really at the heart of a lot of issues. TNR programs helps in this regard because the volunteers employ ear tipping which as you may know is the removal of the tip of the left ear flap of a feral cat who has gone through the TNR process of vaccination and spaying or neutering (it may include other processes as well).

The reason why a person cannot go around shooting at feral cats to eradicate them in America is because legislators cannot draft a law which protects domestic cat under these circumstances. A shooter at a distance of say 50 yards cannot tell whether they are trying to kill a domestic or feral cat. Therefore they can’t shoot. It is as black-and-white as that (this does not stop some of them shooting nonetheless). And it is cruel even if it is a feral cat which should make it a crime under state animal welfare laws.

Not uncommonly, people search for information as to whether they are allowed to shoot feral cats in their state and invariably, after high-quality research and making phone calls, I have confirmed that they can’t do it legally because of the difficulties or impossibility of differentiating between feral and domestic cats and its inherent cruelty.

Some more on shooting

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Audio recording of Steven Mishow admitting to shooting neighbors’ cats

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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