Superior court - Inferior decision - photo by JaymezB (Flickr)
The feral cats of Los Angeles are going to have it harder, at least for a while. I am sure you have heard. A group of wildlife conservation organisations including the Audubon Society made a court application for an injunction into the city's subsidization of individuals (through vouchers) who wanted to trap, neuter and release (TNR) feral cats. A lot of the people who report feral cats and who wish to help are on low incomes so financial support is important for them.
As I understand it, their argument was that TNR does not work and feral cats kill birds by the millions.
Although I have not seen the judgement, the application succeeded and a survey was ordered into TNR and the impact of feral cats on wildlife. In other words the judge wanted to know whether the applicant's arguments were true and in the meantime he shut down city funding of an important process that helps control feral cat populations.
The fear is that many more feral cats will be killed in shelters as nearly all feral cats taken to shelters are killed1
For me, the whole process is wrong on a number of levels.
Firstly, animal conservations groups should not be in conflict over which animal is more important. This at the root of this application, it seems to me. On that basis alone the judge should have thrown the application for an injunction out. A judge is not qualified to make a decision on wildlife issues of this nature. The various groups should have found a common solution and worked together. The first thing they could and should have done is to fully and accurately investigate the impact of feral cats on wildlife and then make appropriate decisions while steering clear of courts.
Secondly, if the judge agreed that the application has merit he should have let the funding continue pending the outcome of a survey. In other words the status quo should be maintained while further research was carried out. That, surely, is a more logical sequence of events.
After all, what if a survey finds that the arguments of the bird conservation groups was founded upon inaccurate data? That would lead to the unnecessary deaths of many feral cats for no purpose.
In my opinion there is no substantive evidence that concludes that feral cats kill birds to an extent that warrants new law or controls.
I also understand that the judge may have overstepped his authority in creating new law, which is the work of the government. A judge can interpret legislation and thereby create precedents but not create wholly new law.
I am afraid the judge got it wrong. The decision is being appealed as it would take too long to produce a report (a report might result in the decision being overturned). And in any case will a survey be accurate and how much will it cost? Will it be biased? There is a lot of self serving data collection going on. It is hard to get at the truth. We don't even know how many feral cats there are so how can we work out their impact?
I would have thought that the city councillors are annoyed. They are an enlightened group on the basis that they banned the declawing of cats late last year.
1.Alley Cat Allies
Feral cats of Los Angeles
Please go to Alley Cat Allies Action Alert page -- link broken May 2013
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