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Euthanasia of Feral Cats

Euthanasia of Feral Cats

by Michael
(London, UK)

Amersterdam Floating Cat Shelter. This shelter has no connection with this post. I just like the photo.

My mind just turned to the euthanasia of feral cats and why it is not a crime. There is no such crime as cat murder or "felocide". But there are extensive laws on cat cruelty throughout the world but mainly in old Europe and America (see Cats and the Law). Before a person kills a cat they could be cruel to the cat if the method of killing is such that it causes suffering. In which case the person who is managing the euthanasia is, on the face of it, committing a crime. In the UK it would be under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

I may be missing the point but I don't know of any special legislation that governs the killing of cats at cat shelters. Although under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it states that administering poisons is a crime if is done "without lawful authority or reasonable excuse". Perhaps the "reasonable excuse" argument could be used as a defense.

The reason I am saying this is because not all cat shelters euthanize cats in a humane way during which the cat feels no pain or discomfort (e.g. Carbon monoxide poisoning is considered painful but is used). This might fall under causing unnecessary suffering but once again it would seem that the legislation is drafted sufficiently vaguely to allow a get out. For example in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, section 4 allows unnecessary suffering to be perpetrated on a cat where:

(c) whether the conduct which caused the suffering was for a legitimate purpose, such as—

(i) the purpose of benefiting the animal, or
(ii) the purpose of protecting a person, property or another animal;

(d) whether the suffering was proportionate to the purpose of the conduct concerned;
(e) whether the conduct concerned was in all the circumstances that of a reasonably competent and humane person.(section 4)

No doubt the above clauses protect animal shelters who do a great job but some do not, lets be realistic. It is the very rare bad one that should be prosecuted but I have never seen anyone committed to prison on conviction for animal cruelty. It seems to me that the euthanasia of feral cats could on occasion cross into animal cruelty.

As I said cat shelters do sterling work but I wonder sometimes whether overall, looking long term, they perpetuate the feral cat problem. Sometimes their existence almost looks parasitic (on the feral cat problem). And I am not being critical of animal shelters, just looking at the wider and deeper issues. I wonder if there should be more focus on preventative measures? Cat shelters are reactive, they mop up the mess.

Photo: by Laura (& Garrett) and published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

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