Tom O’Connor writing on the stuff.co.nz website has got it entirely wrong. He’s criticising the content of an article about the exhumation of a cat that was shot in order to find out whether the cat had been killed humanely. I don’t have access to the article he refers to because he fails to provide a link. Apparently, a request was made to the SPCA to dig up a shot cat and Tom O’Connor thinks the whole thing is farcical because domestic and feral cats are killers of wildlife. And he implies that they are ‘just cats’ and therefore we shouldn’t waste our time purusing such an irrational mission.
I’m going to argue that his thoughts are misplaced (see his article). It is irrelevant that domestic and feral cats kill wildlife in this context. This is an issue about whether a person has acted in a criminal manner in killing a cat. You cannot shoot a cat as a way to euthanise the animal unless you can guarantee that the act causes death humanely. The only sure way to kill a cat humanely is by a veterinarian or a qualified assistant delivering euthanising drugs in a controlled way.
There are arguments about shooting cats and whether it is a humane way to kill a cat. It is far more likely to be an inhumane way. The argument turns on causing pain and unless the shot is delivered accurately it is liable to cause pain and therefore it cannot be a guaranteed way to end the life of a cat humanely.
There is also the important matter of whether the cat in question was a domestic or feral cat. If a person shoots someone else’s cat it is an act of criminal damage and the perpetrator can be tried in the criminal courts for that crime. And of course killing a cat inhumanely is also a crime across America and in most developed countries. There is also the issue of potential theft of a domestic cat. Exhuming the cat and checking for evidence of ownership has value.
Tom O’Connor has got it wrong because he has totally avoided discussing the potential criminality of this matter. It’s about the crime and about causing pain or not causing pain. It is irrelevant to discuss, as he has, the predation by domestic and feral cats on wildlife. I know that that aspect of domestic and feral cats upsets a lot of people and I get it. I am sympathetic towards their attitude. I don’t like to see feral and domestic cats killing wildlife. However, humans domesticated the North African wildcat. It was a mutual agreement. We took on the responsibility of this domestication. We have screwed up dramatically because arguably half the domestic cat on the planet have become feral and that was not part of the grand plan.
It is the responsibility of humans to deal with this problem. It cannot be dealt with by shooting trapped cats in an ad hoc manner. Therefore if somebody has trapped and shot a domestic or feral cat and the cat has been buried it is viable and indeed sensible, if it is believed that person has committed a criminal act, to dig up the cat to find out whether the killing was humane or not.