On the basis that there is a feral cat problem in America (some people don’t agree there is) the only way to deal with it is through extensive TNR programs. I think this needs to be clearly stated because there are many discussions by leglislators on how to deal with feral cats.
Note: this article is about reactioning to feral cat populations. The best course of action is to take preventative measures.
There are three ways to deal with existing feral cats:
- accept them
- kill them
- TNR them
My understanding of the situation judging by keeping abreast with many news reports is that there are not enough people willing to accept the indefinite presence of feral cats in America. Therefore something needs to be done.
The existing law does not permit the killing by any means of feral cats. My research indicates that it is illegal to kill feral cats unless it is done humanely by trained staff or under exceptional circumstances. The general animal welfare law across all states in my opinion protects feral cats from being hunted and killed despite what hunters and cat killers say and despite the fact that police officers sometimes allow it. The underlying and unstated reason is the one stated below: how can you be sure the cat is feral?
It is impossible to create new law which allows the mass killing of feral cats by any means. This is because it is impossible to distinguish with certainty between straying domestic cats, domestic cats which are outside the home temporarily, semi-feral cats and genuine feral cats.
It would therefore be impossible to write legislation which permits people to kill feral cats only. You cannot allow, through fresh law, people to kill stray cats outside the home because it would implicate legislators in criminality. They would be liable for inciting the crime of criminal damage at the very least as the cats might have owners. They will also be liable in my opinion for inciting crimes under animal welfare laws as they exist. In any case laws which clash with existing legislation or are unworkable don’t get off the ground (e.g. Winsonsin’s attempt to permit the hunting of feral cats).
In conclusion, you can’t write laws which distinguish between feral and domestic cats because it is impractical to do so.
Therefore, there is no way to make it legal to kill feral cats en masse. In addition of course it is impractical to do so for another reason: there are too many feral cats in America. You simply cannot exterminate them. This is putting to one side for the moment the immorality of the concept.
The key to the whole situation is that as long as domestic cats (“owned cats”) are allowed outside as they are at present you cannot identify them with sufficient certainty to avoid killing them when you intend to kill feral cats.
Therefore the only humane way to reduce feral cat populations is through TNR programs (a humane process and the kindest process despite what PETA claims). People in authority are beginning to become aware of that. By default it is the only way to proceed if the authorities want to do something about feral cat populations in their city, county or state or nationally. TNR becomes more efficient and effective the more widespread it is carried out. If it is seen as inffective by some people it is because it is not carried out on a large enough scale. There should be a nationwide, government funded program!
P.S. Cat owners who allow their cats to roam should take action when he/she goes missing and complain to the police if foul play is suspected. Too many cat owners accept the loss of their cats which fosters the illegal killing of cats.