Is it legal to shoot feral cats in Florida?

Florida Cruelty to Animals Statutes makes it a misdemeanour of the first degree usually punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 to shoot a feral cat unless allowed under hunting laws1 but it is impractical to distinguish between domestic and feral at a distance and therefore hunting laws would not protect a shooter in Florida. As for ‘pests’ and their control, feral cats are not listed as pests in this state2. This is my considered interpretation of the law of Florida.

This does not mean that the law is automatically upheld by law enforcement. But a lack of enforcement should not be interpreted as a lack of law. It is probably fair to say that feral cats are from time to time shot by hunters in Florida and they get away with it. They’d say it is legal. It is not.

Chapter 828 of the Florida Cruelty to Animals Statutes covers animal cruelty. “Animal” includes “every living dumb creature”. I dislike the use of the word “dumb” (to mean without a voice, which is clearly incorrect). It is an old fashioned phrase but it is clear that is covers all animals. There are no exceptions and certainly feral cats are not excepted.

Moving forward to 828.12 (1) it is clear that the killing of animals is a minor crime (misdemeanor) as stated above. Note: shooting a feral cat might not kill him/her. If not it is still a crime as the cat will be unnecessarily mutilated (see below).

The only exception is the killing of animals by veterinarians. Vets “licensed to practice in the state shall be held harmless from either criminal or civil liability for any decisions made or services rendered under the provisions of this section”. This is a common sense and necessary exception.

Sections 828.055 and 828.073 deals with euthanasia of animals and the use of specified drugs. This section is not relevant to feral cats. There are other sections, all of which are irrelevant to this discussion.

There is nothing in the entirety of these statutes which allows feral cats to be shot.

There will be a common sense defense in court to shooting a feral cat. If a feral cat attacks someone and bites and scratches the person they might shoot the cat dead. I’d have thought that the defense would be successful if proven notwithstanding that the person would be at fault because there is never a need to be that close to a feral cat unless the person is involved in TNR.

Here is the relevant section verbatim:

Misdemeanor Animal Cruelty – § 828.12(1)

(1) A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $ 5,000, or both.


The truth is that the animal welfare laws of Florida will be similar to those of the majority of the other fifty states of America. I have written several articles on this topic in reference to other states with the same or very similar conclusions. California is probably the most concerned with animal welfare followed by New York state. An overriding issue regarding feral cats which protects them from shooters is that you cannot be sure at a distance if a cat is feral, stray or domestic wandering outside. Therefore you have to bundle all three types of cat together. If a shooter killed a domestic cat the consequences would be graver as the crime would also fall under criminal damage statutes.

Note: 1 – I can’t find any reference to feral cats in the hunting regulations of Florida. I don’t believe that they have been considered. If this is the case it is because all cats (except bobcats) are out of bounds for hunters because as mentioned domestic, stray and feral cats merge…

Update: Today, 1st March 2018 I telephoned the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission whose remit is to deal with hunting and the person I spoke to agreed that there is nothing within their jurisdiction that refers to feral cats and shooting feral cats. She would refer the matter to the local Humane Society. My question to her was ‘can you shoot feral cats in Florida?’. As you can see she was unable to answer the question because feral cats do not fall within their remit. In which case they cannot be regarded as an animal to be hunted. She agreed that it would be difficult if not impossible to distinguish between a feral cat and a domestic cat which must obviously preclude the hunting of feral cats.

Note: 2 – If I am wrong on the pests statement then please leave a comment.

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19 thoughts on “Is it legal to shoot feral cats in Florida?”

  1. I live in Hollywood fl….i have an cat invasion all over my house …since 2 years I can not go out on my patio in my back yard, there is poo all over my house cats fights every nights of the week in my yard ,on my roof, (4 hours of sleep )by night is my best nights… cats destroyed my furniture , they intrude my house at anytime, dig out my plants wow since 2 years I asked for help (city hall ,shelters, cat care ,human bla bla etc etc I tried EVERYTHING with those cats adorators until they made me clearly understand that {CATS HAVE MORE RIGHTS THAN ME A POOR HUMAN ,SENIOR, TAXE PAYER ) THE WORST ABOUT ALL THAT …(I AM DEADLY ALLERGIC OF CATS) still nobody can help me SOMETIMES I WISH I’VE BEEN A CAT

  2. They are shot and killed all the time in north florida and that will likely never change as there are plenty of laws that protect us from killing cats. Now leaving your house everyday with the sole intention of killing cats is ovb illegal. Also through a scope you can see the cats hairs one by one 🙂

      1. Since you used to be an attorney then you should know what instances legally justify you in killing feral cats. 😉

        1. I do but your comment indicated that people shoot them for fun or because they dislike them. There are very few instances when it is permissible to shoot feral cats legally and even then it is acutely dangerous as it is very easy to shoot someone’s pet.

      2. Also I personally don’t kill feral cats I think catch neuter and release program state wide would kill off the population of feral cats with time and be just as effective. However them being killed is super common here especially on farms and country areas.

  3. Some people feel that Feral cats should be listed as pests due to the fact that they are impacting native species globally. I don’t know if they should be labeled as pests. But I do believe that special licensing for pest control professionals should be provided help manage their numbers. Also regulations that fine people driving around with a car full of cat food feeding them. I love all animals and I also work in the pest control industry and I do see a portion of the damages feral and stray cats cause. Neutering is unfortunately not the solution. Since they will continue to kill native animals. With all the call The pest control industry gets about people requesting to help get rid of these cats, I can say that they are truly a nuisance to many people.

  4. Rabbi Chaim Davidson

    The problem with the argument about being able to distinguish between feral vs domestic cats, is that cats are required by most county laws to be wearing a tag, which implies an accompanied collar. It’s pretty easy to determine whether a cat is wearing a collar from a distance. If your cat was killed on your neighbor’s property, without a collar or tags, no court in Florida is going to convict them of animal cruelty, unless they were found to have killed the animal in a particularly brutal/inhumane fashion.

    The second problem concerns private property. If my dog wanders on to my neighbor’s property and proceeds to defecate, prey upon his neighbor’s pets & livestock, respond aggressively to people, then my neighbor would be well within his rights to kill my dog. Even the smallest of unfamiliar animals can pose extreme dangers to humans. Feline fecal matter is extremely toxic to humans. When encounter their territory, dogs are often compelled to consume feline fecal matter, often with fatal consequences if the cat has worms or some other parasites.

    The only chance the litigiously vengeful have in this situation would be to scrutinize the actual method of killing vs say, firearms laws. For example, killing an animal with a firearm, within city limits where the discharge of firearms is restricted or forbidden.

    So, if you value the life of your cat(s), never let them out of the house without their collar. Even if they don’t have tags, a collar will act as a warning to those who are culling the feral pride. Also, be sure to establish a relationship with your neighbors, so they will be less likely to ‘accidentally’ kill your cat(s).


    1. I will take your advice about Florida counties having tag laws concerning cats and therefore they have to wear collars, on face value. There are 67 counties in Florida. Are you sure all of them have animal laws relating to the obligation to wear tags on collars?

      If you are right then I agree domestic cats might be identifiable but at say 30 or 40 yards you could not distinguish with certainty between a feral, stray or domestic cat in my opinion. If there is some risk, therefore, of shooting a domestic cat, which is a cat owned by somebody, then you can’t shoot at that cat for obvious reasons.

      Also, the article is about shooting feral cats. Shooting is automatically going to cause pain even with the best of shots. Therefore arguably it is automatically a violation of animal welfare laws.

      Cat poo is not extremely toxic to dogs. You will need to explain that fully because you’re incorrect. There is far too much written incorrectly about toxoplasmosis and cats. Toxoplasma gondii oocysts can be present in cat poo but only on one occasion and for a short time.

      I don’t think, also, you can compare dogs and cats in terms of “trespassing” upon other people’s property. Dogs are far more dangerous.

      The law in Florida, as you state, appears to be that outdoor cats need to wear collars and tags. It is legal for a cat to be outside wearing a collar and identification tag. It is legal to be outside like this then the cat should not be hounded and harassed or shot at on the pretext that it might be a feral cat. The bottom line with shooting cats is that it does not matter what type of cat they are. It’s about whether a person causes pain and unnecessary suffering to an animal and I argue that this would occur in every case where a person shoots a cat with a rifle.

  5. My problem is that these feral cats in Tampa keep trying to eat my fish out of my pond. Every night I have to run outside and chase them off only to have them return 2 minutes later. There’s no way to take them to a shelter to be euthanized, can’t shoot them, can’t poison them. What do people with outdoor pets do? What happens when your child is mauled by a feral cat and gets rabies.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Aaron. I presume that your pond is in your front yard where there is access for feral cats. Humans have created through their carelessness a very difficult problem to solve. There has to be a humane solution and that way at present is TNR but it is slow, too slow for a lot of people. Did you know there were feral cats because if so it might have been a bad idea to build a pond in a place where they have access.

      Children are almost never ‘mauled’ by feral cats. These cats steer clear of people is they are truly feral and if they are not truly feral they’ll be socialised and will not attack people unless they are provoked.

  6. You can shoot an animal if you are in fear of your life. I hardly think it necessary to shoot a feral cat or a domestic cat. reasonable gun owners will pickup a garden hose instead of a gun. You can chase away any cat with a garden hose (or even a squirt gun). You…cannot even tell if the cat is feral or owned by someone because it will often be afraid of you to begin with & it naturally will try to defend itself to get away from you alive. A feral cat is not trying to murder you. so don’t be an idiot and shoot it fool. We won’t even talk about discharge of firearm laws.

    1. Thanks Larry. I agree. Of course it is highly unlikely that a person will be in fear of his/her life because of a house cat or feral cat. In fact is is almost impossible except for instance if you know the cat has rabies and is aggressive towards you.

    1. The police should be the people you report this crime to. They may or may not be interested. You can also try the local humane society. They should be interested. Is the cat being cared for? Has a veterinarian seen the cat and treated him/her? Thanks for posting.

  7. This is why you were never smart enough nor good enough to be a lawyer.

    It is perfectly legal to destroy these domesticated cat species everywhere on earth, feral or not. Nuisance-animal, pest-control, depredation-control, and invasive-species laws supersede all other animal-protection laws (except for endangered-species and regulated game-animal laws,). Even rare and endangered Florida Panthers can be legally shot to death if found attacking a human, for example. You just have to kill community-vermin cats on your own land or have the written permission of the land-owner (just as I was advised by the sheriff who knows and upholds the law), or be serving as community-law or ordinance enforcement and be certain that you shoot-to-kill — as just maiming a cat IS illegal and falls under animal-cruelty laws (all hunters know this).

    Take just this one example of many more from every state, from every nation. Even Alley-Cat-ALL-LIES tried to get this person convicted of a crime. That’s just how stupid and ignorant of property and animal laws that that fool Becky and even their own lawyers are. (As are you.)

    In FACT, the shooter can sue the cat-caretakers for thousands of dollars in damages, as well as legally shooting their cats for them.

    Now either go educate yourself after all these years of your wallowing in a bliss of ignorance, or stop making up new lies to spew to people who are even more stupid than you are.

    1. You are wrong, you angry person. Feral cats are not listed as pests in Florida.

      You state:

      “It is perfectly legal to destroy these domesticated cat species everywhere on earth, feral or not.”

      You know that is incorrect. You are just terrified that I am educating people because you want to go on killing cats. 🙂

      You are a failure Woody.

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