AUGUSTA, Kansas, USA: In June, an Augusta couple were found guilty of the crime of feeding and watering feral cats (Elisa reported on it). I don’t know the exact ordinance which they breached but they must’ve breached the criminal law and that law must have included the feeding of feral cats.
A judge ordered them to pay a fine of $150 per person for each count of which they were guilty. The couple were initially charged with 21 counts but were found guilty on four counts of putting food and water out for feral cats in and around Augusta.
If they do it again they face jail. They are appealing the conviction. And rightly so. According to the testimony of an animal control officer the wife, Sue Jones, was involved in TNR. If that is true then she was feeding feral cat as part of a TNR program. This is normal.
Nationwide and in general (with exceptions), this sort of activity is not considered to be criminal. I would like to discuss how such an activity could be described as criminal. Many people would describe what they’re doing as something good and something in the interests of the community. What they are doing is reducing the population of feral cats in an humane manner. Many people would consider that to be good behaviour. Good behaviour cannot be criminal behaviour. Criminal behaviour must have an element of immorality and badness about it. Criminality is essentially bad.
In this instance, although I see the potential nuisance element of what they’re doing (attracting nuisance wildlife), their activities in dealing with feral cats in an humane way cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered to be conclusively bad to the point of criminality. Some people will dislike it while others will praise the couple. But overall you would not achieve consensus in the community that their activities with respect to feeding feral cats are bad requiring punishment. That would be wrong.
Mr and Mrs Jones’s daughter, Kate Roggenbaum, said that she has heard from people all over the country remarking that they have never heard anything like it. One person even thought that it was fake news. She makes the point that I’m making:
“I think that there are far more important things going on in the world today, and I think that the humane treatment of animals is not criminal and should not be criminalised.”
Although I keep on saying it, it should be remembered that people created the so-called feral cat problem. This must go towards making a decision as to how to deal with people who voluntarily try and help feral cats.
I have to conclude that the ordinances under which they were charged and convicted in Augusta, Kansas are inappropriate and badly formulated. They should be changed. They should be amended and updated to accommodate the growing trend in the use of TNR programs to control feral cat population sizes in the US.
There must be a better way of dealing with this couple. What they did should be decriminalised and should be dealt with in a far more gentle manner. The local authority could create legislation which regulates how feral cats are fed under TNR programs, for instance. Although, there may already be such regulations in Augusta, Kansas. If that is the case then once again they should be dealt with more leniently and educated on how to go about conducting TNR programs.