In New Zealand and Australia, and in many areas of North America, there is this constant battle between two opposing forces: those that wish to trap and kill feral cats to eradicate them and those on the other side of the fence who wish to pursue the more humane policy of TNR.
The simple point that I wish to make in the short article is that it would be illegal to conduct mass feral cat killings and therefore it is completely impractical to discuss the matter. In addition, there is increasing evidence to suggest that, when carried out properly, TNR works well. The problem is that TNR is simply too slow for politicians who make decisions about the law because they are into quick fixes. Their careers are based upon seeing results and they do not have the patience or time to see TNR working.
The reason why the mass killing of feral cats would be illegal is because as the SPCA spokesperson, Mark Collyns, in New Zealand, said:
“If we rush out killing every cat that someone wants killed, six out of 10 will be someone’s loved pet. That’s nowhere we want to go.”
If local authorities authorise animal control to trap and kill feral cats in large numbers they will inevitably be killing, at some stage, domestic cats who have strayed or even outdoor cats who are relatively unkempt and therefore have the appearance of being feral cats. Once a fully domesticated and owned cat is trapped they often become aggressive and can quite easily give the appearance of being feral.
If the authorities trap and kill someone’s domestic cat they are committing a crime and the owner has a right to see that crime prosecuted and to receive compensation in the civil courts under the tort of conversion or under a court order in the criminal courts.
Pets are someone’s property under the law. We know that. If someone stole your Mercedes and crushed it, you’d complain to the police and seek compensation from the perpetrator. It is the same for cats but worse because cats are sentient beings.
It could be chaotic with pet owners suing the local authorities in group actions (“class action complaints”). If there were obligatory microchipping, that would clearly help identify domestic cats but there are very few places where microchipping is currently obligatory under the law.
As mentioned before, on numerous occasions, not only would the mass killing of feral cats be impractical for the reason stated above, it would be ineffective because we all know by now that when you kill feral cats other feral cats turn up and enter the space that becomes vacant.
It is time to stop talking about trapping and killing feral cats and turn to the only solution that we currently have, which is properly conducted TNR.
In Wellington, New Zealand, Cats Protection League said that a well-managed colony of feral cats in Johnsonville demonstrates that TNR was effective as feral cat numbers are slowly decreasing. It would seem that the Conservation Minister Maggie Barry does not fully understand the purpose of TNR. It is to reduce numbers humanely, albeit slowly. I think she sees it as feeding feral cats as she can’t see rapid results.
Slow progress in reducing feral cat numbers is perfectly acceptable when we bear in mind that the increase in numbers has also been a slow process. It takes time to rectify long-standing problems. Patience is required together with a humane and sensible approach.