To outsiders “PA” means the state of Pennsylvania, USA. I have answered the question “off paper” by which I mean through research rather than relying on first hand experiences. If anyone can add first hand experience (excluding trolls such as Woodsman001) I’d be happy to publish their comment.
The answer to the question in the title lies in the overlap of the following issues:
- Statutory law regarding animal cruelty in Pennsylvania (5511)
- Hunting regulations in the state
- Pest control in the state
- Control of ‘nuisance animals’
NOTICE: BEFORE I ADDRESS THESE 4 ISSUES, I CAN CONFIRM THAT I HAVE TELEPHONED THE PENNSYLVANIA GAME COMMISSION ON 717 787 4250 AND SPOKEN WITH THEM. THEY TELL ME UNEQUIVOCALLY THAT IT IS ILLEGAL TO SHOOT FERAL CATS IN PA. THIS IS DEFINITIVE AND UNARGUABLE.
Regarding killing, Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws concern domestic or zoo animals as stated in the first line. However, the law clearly states that a person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he willfully and maliciously kills, maims, mutilates, tortures or disfigures any dog or cat whether belonging to himself or otherwise.
The word “otherwise” must mean a cat belonging to somebody else or belonging to nobody which in turn must apply to feral cats and stray cats (Section 5511 cruelty to animals).
Also, I have stated several times before, how is a shooter able to distinguish between a feral, stray or domestic cat? And let’s be clear, many feral cats are semi-domesticated. Would that or should that place them under the protection of the law? Therefore on a practical level it is highly unwise and should not be attempted. A person shooting a cat that he thought was feral could well end up in the criminal and civil courts expending a pile of money on his defense and still find himself in jail and massively out of pocket.
The forum huntingpa.com (a hunting website) backs up what I have stated. It states that “owned and loose, stray, and feral; killing them is against the law”.
You might expect that the hunting regulations and pest control regulations of Pennsylvania refer to feral cats specifically allowing them to be culled or exterminated at will by the citizens of the state. However, I can find no reference to feral cats in the law regarding hunting in this state therefore it cannot be said that shooters have permission under hunting regulations. The reason is the impossibility of distinguishing feral from domestic.
In another article on whether hunters can shoot feral cats in Wisconsin I telephoned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and spoke to a lady there who told me, and agree with me, that it is illegal to shoot feral cats in that state. We agreed that it is impossible to distinguish between feral and domestic cats at a distance and therefore to allow the shooting of feral cats would also allow the shooting of domestic cats. Also, feral cats are not regarded as ‘wild mammals’ and therefore cannot fall within the context of unprotected species in Wisconsin. I’m sure that a very similar regulation applies to PA.
As for pests, a Pennsylvania state website (extension.psu.edu) refers to invasive species. They say they can be pests. They list them. The feral cat is not on the list. Therefore feral cats are neither invasive species nor pests as listed by the authorities in this state and therefore cannot be dealt with under this heading.
As for nuisance animals, feral cats could fall under this heading. The extension.psu.edu website states that “shooting live ammunition, whether to frighten or kill, has limited application. Generally, live ammunition may only be fired during hunting season or under permit”. Therefore we have to fall back on hunting regs referred to above. And once again there is always the overriding issue of distinguishing feral from domestic.
Exceptionally rarely a person may have to kill a cat, either domestic or feral, who is attacking them. They may shoot the cat and therefore under the circumstances they may raise the defence in court that they shot the cat in self defence. This would be unfortunate because whenever a cat attacks somebody it is, in my opinion, the person’s fault unless the cat has rabies.
It is illegal to shoot feral cats in Pennsylvania. My telephone call to the Pennsylvania Game Commission confirms that. I had quite a nice conversation with the gentleman at the Commission. We agreed that it is impractical in any event to allow people to shoot feral cats because you cannot, as explained above, tell the difference between someone’s pet and a genuine feral cat at a distance. Also, as explained above, the law encompasses unowned cats so this article puts to rest the argument. Cat shooters will try and shoot the argument down! They will be wrong. Don’t listen to them.
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