There have been various attempts over the years by local authorities in America to ban the feeding of feral cats. It is being discussed right now by the Casper City Council in Wyoming. There is an interesting detailed report of the discussions taken by council members on the Oil City News website.
The immediate impression I get is that there are complications in trying to ban people from feeding feral cats. For example, how do you know which cats are feral and which are stray domestic cats? Not all feral cats are ear tipped. And what if a person feeds some other wild animal like a fox because they want to treat the fox for mange by adding a medicine to their food? A feral cat might eat that food rather than the fox. Is that person guilty of breaking the city’s regulations prohibiting the feeding of feral cats?
You’ll have to prove intent (to feed the cats rather than the fox) and the whole thing becomes very complicated and perhaps unworkable. And if you ban the feeding of feral cats but no other wild animal isn’t that speciesism?
And if somebody is in violation of the ban how do you punish them? Do you make it a misdemeanour (a minor crime) or do you not make it a crime at all but treat it in an entirely different way and simply talk to the person? Would that be sufficient to enforce the law?
It was said at the meeting that the council does “respond to a large volume of people feeding non-domesticated animals”. What they are saying is that in common with people in other countries there are a lot of citizens who want to help wild animals. They are sympathetic towards them because they sometimes struggle in a human-dominated world. These are kindhearted people. Are you going to punish them for being kindhearted?
A lot of people don’t like feral cats, pigeons and rats. They consider them all pests. But they are still sentient beings. They are still animals and in the eyes of God they have equal rights. I don’t believe in God but I’m making a point that in an absolute world they are all the same.
In fact, feral cats have a particular claim to be treated better than other animals if we are going to adopt speciesism. Some of them will be domestic cats who have turned feral because they have been abandoned by their owner. That is a very unfortunate outcome for them. To help them by feeding is the decent thing to do so is it right to punish a person under these circumstances?
The problem at Casper City is the problem which confounds many city administrations which is that sometimes feral cats end in shelters where they are euthanised. Shelters want to reduce the euthanasia rates for all kinds of reasons. And there are people who think that the presence of feral cats spreads disease and creates an environmental problem.
The council members of Casper City did not discuss, as far as I can tell, the feeding of feral cats within TNR programs. My feeling is that when you feed feral cats under controlled conditions at specific times of the day and then take up the food promptly after the cats have been fed and when the local authority manages or authorises TNR programs you have the best solution.
I also think that the complexities of banning the feeding of feral cats make the proposed ordinance (law) as discussed by Casper City probably unworkable.
Some more on feeding feral cats