Date: 27th January 2011: The USA is desperate to deal with “the feral cat problem” but does it have the will, means, courage or imagination to do it properly and humanely? It seems that they are deciding to shoot ’em instead. I am referring to the proposed state of Utah’s bill, H.B. 210, (a draft statute) which declares open season on feral animals of which feral cats are the most numerous and obvious. I also recall a couple of articles written by Elisa, which supports this state of desperation: PETA Believes Feral Cats Should Be Killed and New Jersey Law Would Classify Cats As Venison.
I don’t know what visitors will think of this. I am sure a lot will think it is a good idea. I am sure that a decent number of regular visitors approve the killing of feral cats as a practical solution. It actually happens in very large numbers – millions – through shelters but it is called “euthanasia” and chemicals are used rather than bullets. Many though will hate this.
I cannot help but feel that it is a totally misconceived policy. It is a bit shocking that the legislators of the state, the best brains and most dynamic in the state, can decide that this is the way to go. I am not even sure that it will work because of the vacuum phenomenon. Cats just fill the vacuum created by the loss of cats. It may even encourage the breeding of feral cats in the long term, making things worse. What it will do, if it is passed into law, is please idle men with rifles as it allows them to take pot-shots at any animal that moves outside of the home – legally.
The state of Utah defines “feral” as: “an animal that is normally domesticated but has reverted to the wild”. The bill amends the states animal cruelty laws. It allows the humane killing of an animal, provided the person “has a reasonable belief” that it is feral. This makes the shooting of feral cats as legal as hunting wildlife, with the exception that hunting requires a license and the shooting of cats does not, under this bill.
The relevant section as far as I am aware is:
…provides that the provisions of this bill do not affect or prohibit the humane shooting or killing of an animal if the person doing the shooting or killing has a reasonable belief that the animal is a feral animal;…
The phrase, “has a reasonable belief” is horrible. It allows open season on the shooting of cats, any cat that is outside because the shooter has only to say that he believed the cat was feral. It is difficult to disprove that.
So we have the scenario of a person shooting a cat, someones cherished cat companion. The shot injures the cat terribly. The cat is in agony and hides. The shooter can’t find the cat. The cat dies slowly. It is a form of gross torture. But, it seems that this is totally legal and acceptable under this misconceived draft legislation provided the perpetrator holds his hands up and says he thought it was a feral cat. Although the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Curt Oda (I think “Rep.” means, “representative” a politician), defends the bill by saying he supports shooting feral cats “if it is threatening a resident’s pets or a person”. How often do feral cats do that! Most feral cats just hide, get out of the way of people because people are dangerous. Tigers do the same thing incidentally, whenever they can.
Apparently Curt Oda has received email threats. I don’t condone that but understand it as the proposed legislation is shortsighted and lacks imagination. It also puts cat companions who take a walk outside subject to the possibility of being shot. A recent post made by a visitor supports this possibility: Fremont County Wyoming Sheriff Shoots Any Cat. There are people who like to use their guns. If you have one you want to use it. And that excludes the genuine people who don’t know how to differentiate a feral cat from a stray cat from a homed domestic cat – can you from a distance? Even an expert can’t from a distance.
The bill totally ignores the root cause of the proliferation of feral cats. It is reactive and tackles the symptoms rather than the causes of bad cat ownership in a short term manner.
Let’s tackle cat caretaking through education and regulation notwithstanding that it is a far more difficult route. It is, though, the better one as it will resolve the problem of feral cats in the long term and in a humane way. Let’s start getting civilised, please.
See the Australian version of this legislation: Ground Shooting of Feral Cats