NEWS AND VIEWS: The police have been at it again; screwing up and messing around. And telling fibs, I’d say. In the UK can we trust the police anymore? No, I’m afraid not.
In this story, a wildlife charity in Wales, Wildcat Haven, was looking after a rescued Scottish wildcat kitten called Finlay. He had been found in the Scottish Highlands as a three-week-old kitten. He was in a bad way and needed urgent medical attention.
Finlay was being rehabilitated by the charity before release back into the wild. The first issue and the major one is that the charity had assessed the cat as a Scottish wildcat hybrid based on a diagnostic method which assesses the coat markings. On this assessment Finlay scored 14/21. So, he is not a purebred wildcat. I’d expect the assessment process to be problematic to be honest. Can you assess a wildcat cat from appearance only. I don’t believe you can.
It is no surprise to me that Finlay is a hybrid as there are probably no true wildcats left in the wild as the ones in the wild are all hybrids.
The truth is that Finlay might well be a regular tabby cat but North Wales police seized him from the charity because they did not have a license to keep one. The charity said that they don’t need one to rescue, rehabilitate and return a wildcat to the wild.
Nonetheless the police seized Finlay and kept him for 4 months before handing him back saying that Finlay is a tabby domestic cat! It took them 4 months during which it is claimed that they took poor care of him and his health deteriorated. The police deny this and say that he was checked by a vet and well cared for.
The charity claims that the police committed a crime. They claim they are in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It looks entirely plausible. They’ve made a formal complaint.
They also say that the police’s mistakes have set back Finlay’s rehabilitation. They had to start all over as when he was returned by the police he was “in an emaciated state and has required six months of intensive care to bring him back to health”.
Finlay is scheduled to be released into the wilds of Scotland in late spring 2023 when prey is abundant.
The big question is whether all of this is for nought. If Finlay is now in effect a domesticated wildcat hybrid, is it sensible to treat him as a purebred wildcat and return him to the harsh wilds of Scotland where he might struggle to survive. It is a bit like putting a domestic into the wild and expecting them to survive. Most don’t.
Why not treat him as an exotic wildcat hybrid, if he is genuinely that, and allow someone to adopt him? The police have already said that he is a tabby cat and therefore they would not object as no license is required.
That might be the more humane way forward. Perhaps when he was rescued in Scotland, he was a feral tabby kitten. No more and no less. It is almost impossible to differentiate between a stocky tabby domestic cat and a genuine Scottish wildcat on appearance alone.