If a trapper in Wisconsin deliberately sets out to trap to kill feral cats then his actions would be illegal. The regulations regarding trapping animals in Wisconsin are quite extensive and quite complicated but they do list the animals that can be trapped, the sort of traps that can be used, the restrictions on certain locations and the dates during which trapping can take place.
The animals that can be trapped are: beaver, fisher, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, red fox, grey fox, mink, muskrat and otter. Feral cats are not listed. Clearly if a trapper sets out to trap the above-mentioned wild animals then he may incidentally and inadvertently or perhaps carelessly trap a feral cat. This would be considered an “incidental take”.
It is not, as far as I can see, illegal to trap a feral cat if that cat is a genuine incidental take. That, in my opinion, is a sad state of affairs but it’s the way it is in Wisconsin.
But oviously a person engaging in trapping animals cannot intend to trap any animal. Otherwise it would be legal to trap a domestic cat or dog, for example. And it would be legal to put down a trap that could kill an animal on a sidewalk in a suburban area. That would be quite nonsensical.
Therefore, we are talking about the mental state, by which I mean the intentions, of the trapper. How do we find out which animals he intends to trap? The answer must be found by studying the area where he is doing his trapping. You can also find out the person’s intentions by what he says and what he does.
If a person sets out to trap feral cats then in my opinion his actions fall outside of the regulations regarding trapping and his actions then fall within the ambit of the Wisconsin Cruelty to Animals Statutes.
The Wisconsin Cruelty to Animals Statutes do not override the laws regarding the trapping of animals in Wisconsin. The laws are meant to run side-by-side with one not contravening the other.
The animal cruelty law in Wisconsin (Chapter 951) makes it clear that, “no person may treat any animal, whether belonging to the person or another, in a cruel manner”.
Therefore, I conclude, that if a person deliberately sets out to trap to kill feral cats he or she will be in breach of 951.02. Certain traps cause a massive amount of damage and pain.
Clearly the difficulty is in proving that the trapper deliberately wanted to kill feral cats by trapping them. That is called “mens rea” in criminal law legal parlance.
Mr Sam Wood admits that sometimes he has to kill feral cats in animal traps. This has been reported in the online newspaper ABC Wisconsin. Note the word “has to”. This implies that he is deliberately killing feral cats because they are invasive species and they kill native species and he is concerned, he says, with conservation.
Mr Sam Wood openly admits on Facebook that he detests feral cats and he wishes that he could kill them for their fur to make money. He refers to them as “evil bustards”.
I believe that you will find amongst all the videos and words on Mr Sam Wood’s Facebook page strong evidence that he deliberately kills feral cats either by trapping them or shooting them. This is illegal.
The problem is that the chief of police says that he has not done anything illegal because the feral cats caught in his traps are treated as incidental catches and part of his normal trapping activities. And the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources confirm that there are no laws regulating the trapping of feral cats (meaning they are not listed). Wisconsin seems to have an attitude towards animals which is not that conducive to animal welfare. The authorities don’t want to prosecute animal cruelty crimes. Perhaps this is why Sam Woods gets away with animal cruelty?
However, the key, as mentioned above, is that if we are to prove that Mr Wood is acting illegally we have to prove that the feral cats are not “incidental catches” but primary catches whereupon his actions fall under animal cruelty laws.
I should say that under Wisconsin’s invasive species laws (CH. NR 40), effective May 1, 2015, the feral cat is not listed as an invasive species and therefore cannot be killed in traps as an exception to the animal welfare acts of that state. I mention this because feral cat haters normally quote invasive species regulations which they argue gives them carte blanche to kill feral cats as they wish.
Further, it has to be mentioned that it is impossible to distinguish between a feral cat and a stray cat. Stray cats are often domestic and therefore owned by somebody. This is probably why the feral cat is not listed as an invasive species.
Therefore, if Mr Wood traps a domestic cat, the owner, if aware of it, could report the matter to law enforcement which should lead to a successful prosecution under animal welfare laws and under laws concerning criminal damage.
If anybody can add to this then please do so in a comment. I am open to amendment and correction in the interests of truth and accuracy. Cat haters and killers need not comment unless it is polite and the law is quoted verbatim.