In order to jump the gun (forgive the pun) and get to the answer to the question very quickly I telephoned the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and spoke to a nice lady whose name is Kim. I asked whether it is legal to shoot feral cats in Minnesota. Regrettably, she was unable to answer the question there and then and promised to seek advice from a colleague and then get back to me by email.
The upshot of all this is that according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources you have to address the question in the title to the relevant jurisdiction which in all cases in the state will be governed by the local authority either at County sheriff or city police department level.
“Thank you for contacting the Minnesota DNR. I spoke with our enforcement staff this morning. They indicated that jurisdiction of feral cats is under local authority here in the state of Minnesota. Local authority would be county sheriff and city police departments. Local ordinances would dictate how one can deal with a feral cat. They also would know what resources would exist that they could draw off of such as a local humane society or if the municipality has an animal control unit. Please feel free to contact us if you have further questions either by email or by calling 888-646-6367 M-F 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.” (Kim DNR)
Therefore, my advice would be to contact your local authority; in particular the county sheriff and city police departments to find out the answer to the question in the title. Don’t assume you can shoot feral cats because I am certain you cannot.
What Is the Law on Shooting Feral Cats in Minnesota?
As for hunting, the feral cat is not listed as an animal that can be hunted although the list includes “small game”. However, feral cats cannot be considered to be “game”. In addition (and I have said this before) it is impossible to distinguish between a domestic cat and a feral cat at a distance therefore it is impossible to legislate to allow hunters to shoot feral cats because in doing so the legislation would permit the possible hunting and killing of someone’s domestic cat companion which would be a crime. Legislation cannot permit a crime.
As for animal welfare laws in Minnesota, the relevant statute at this time is numbered 343.21. It makes it clear that no person can unjustifiably injure, maim, mutilate or kill any animal. And also that no person shall wilfully instigate or in any way further any act of cruelty to any animal or animals, or any act tending to produce cruelty to animals. Shooting a feral cat at a distance is almost certain to be act of cruelty causing pain. In outline, therefore, and without seeing any exceptions to the general rules, I have to conclude that under state law in Minnesota it is illegal to shoot feral cats. However, as mentioned above, there may be some exceptions are county and city level which need to be investigated but I doubt it. You may have difficulty getting a clean and confident answer from the local sheriff.
There is an interesting article on the Humane Society website which is relevant to this article. It concerns a criminal case in which a person shot a cat in the belief that the cat was a stray cat which in turn precluded him from being charged with a felony and convicted of a felony.
In the case State of Minnesota v. Ajalon Thomas Corocan (Minnesota Court of Appeals release September 14, 2010) the appeal court agreed that it is a felony animal cruelty to shoot a cat whether or not the defendant knows the cat is a pet. The court referred to Minnesota’s animal cruelty statute (Minn. Stat. 343.21) which states that if a person unjustifiably injured, maimed, mutilated or kills an animal he/she is guilty of a misdemeanour. Further, if the person intentionally violates the misdemeanour provision and it result in the death of the pet the offence is elevated to a felony. In short, there is no need for the shooter to know that he is shooting a domestic cat. There is no requirement that the accused should know that the animal being killed is a pet.
There is one final caveat which is the word “unjustifiably”. Clearly, there may be some occasions when shooting a cat is justifiable. I don’t have case law on that. I would expect those occasions to be extremely rare. One example might be if the cat has confirmed rabies. Or a feral cat is attacking a farmer’s livestock which is obviously highly unlikely.
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