Abandoned cat - photo by Eirik Newth (Flickr)
People are fined in the USA for chucking litter on the ground in public places yet I see very little in the way of fines being dished out to people who abandon their cats. Which is the worse, throwing a cigarette butt on the ground or throwing a cat away? Which has the greater impact on the environment? I think the answer is obvious.
I would have thought that a person could be prosecuted under one of the animal welfare laws. A full-time indoor cat will almost certainly suffer if simply abandoned outside. Such an act must surely be in breach of animal welfare laws. Prosecutions can and do take place but rarely it seems.
One point comes to mind. Animal welfare laws are obviously designed to protect the welfare of animals. Animal suffering will have to be established. In other words the crime is not what is called, "strict liability".
Whereas the laws regarding litter are strict liability. The only thing that has to be proved is that a person threw litter on the ground or out of a car, for instance. That is easier to prove and leads to more convictions. As a result it is more effective in stopping people littering public places.
Is there not, then, a good argument for tightening up the welfare laws to make cat abandonment a strict liability offense? If someone abandons a cat it should be a crime - simple. No cruelty or loss or damage of any kind should need to be proved.
As abandoned cats affect the environment as well as the cat, a change is the law could be conducted under existing animal welfare or environmental laws.
Enforcement would be a problem of course. But enforcement of litter laws are also difficult but that has not stopped their creation and effectiveness.
If such a law had only a small impact on the number of abandoned cats it could be declared as successful, I feel. There needs to be some effort to curb irresponsible abandonment of cats as it is the root cause of the unacceptable numbers of feral cats.
People constantly complain about feral cats and focus on how to deal with the cats yet I see almost nothing going on to curb the behavior of people.
Surely the focus is misplaced. What I find shocking is that in one way more importance is being placed on the throwing away of a piece of paper than the throwing away of a living, breathing creature that was once a member of a family.
Does this tell us something about humankind's attitude towards the cat and the dog companion?
It seems to me that it would be very easy to introduce the crime of abandoning a cat. The people who prosecute the litter louts could simply extend their area of operation to abandoned cats.
People should be fined for abandoning a cat either for cat abuse or as a strict liability offense akin to the litter laws. Is this a crazy idea?
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