Desert Messenger

August 3, 2011

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P��� 18 FEREL CATS 101 Submitted By Beth Praast Feral Cat Population Control DID YOU KNOW? Because feral cat colonies are of great concern here in Quartzsite, the ques- tion of who is legally responsible for these animals needs to be addressed. Loss of wildlife by cat predation is a concern not only to conservationists, environmentalists, and bird lovers, but also to all residents of the commu- nity who, knowingly or not, depend on the health of their neighborhood ecosystems to sustain their quality of life. A thorough and intricate problem necessarily requires a comprehensive and sustainable solution. This article, fourth in a series I’ve written about ���.D�����M��������.��� feral cats, is about the legal ramifi ca- tions of cat ownership and care, and competing viewpoints on how best to deal with non-domesticated cat popu- lations. Feral colonies are a hot topic among some residents of our community. The problems created by feral cats stem largely from their skill as hunters and the productiveness of the species. A peculiarity of cats is that they continue to hunt even when well-fed. An additional objection to feral cats concerns their potential to carry and spread disease While there is disagree- ment over the extent to which cats do spread disease, they are known to trans- mit ringworm, parasitic worms, feline immunodefi ciency virus, and feline leukemia. They also carry cat scratch fever, which also affects humans. In addition, cats are the companion ani- mal most commonly infected with rabies in the United States. However, cats may be a relatively minor rabies threat to other species because rabies is transmitted through saliva and not scratching The question of how best to humanely deal with cat predation, dis- ease, and overpopulation has resulted in controversy. The American Bird Conservancy es- timates that native birds represent 20- 30% of the prey of free-roaming cats. The group encourages “elimination of free-roaming cat colonies through hu- mane capture by animal care and con- trol facilities.” Some animal advocate groups have encouraged use of lethal injection with sodium pentobarbital, which is considered a more humane method of euthanasia. Euthanasia is also reluctantly supported by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which cites the miserable lives of feral cats as justifi cation for the practice. While “trap and kill” remains con- troversial, “shoot to kill” has also been suggested. In 2005, the Wisconsin Con- servation Congress proposed changing the classifi cation of free-roaming cats to that of an “unprotected species.” The proposal, ultimately struck down by voters, would have made any free roaming cat, whether stray or feral, without a collar fair game for hunters. The proposal was designed to protect songbirds and other wildlife. Colony Managers? What is this you ask? While the historical relationship between humans and cats is well-es- tablished, the legal relationship be- tween the two species is more tenuous. While most municipalities and states have detailed laws concerning the possession, care, and control of dogs, A����� 3, 2011 surprisingly few have cat-specifi c laws. The question of who is responsible for the actions of a particular cat depends on the actions of people as they relate to the cat. The feral colony managers, are considered by some conservation- ists to be adding to the feral cat prob- lem. Before considering the question of whether a cat owner is liable for the behavior of his/her cat, it must fi rst be determined what constitutes “owner- ship” of animals in the fi rst place. Ownership of any animal: Any person who owns, possesses, controls, keeps, cares for, harbors or has custody of the animal for fi fteen (15) or more consec- utive days, except for caretakers, a vet- erinarian or an operator of a grooming shop, a kennel or a pet shop engaged in the regular practice of this business as such.1 Like all wild animals, feral cats are born outside of captivity, and are ge- netically predisposed toward certain survival-oriented behavior. A wild ani- mal is “owned” by the holder of land on which the animal resided. This con- structive possession creates a property interest in animals, known as property by reason of ownership. First-genera- tion feral cats (strays) because they are normally lost or abandoned by their true owners, are not considered wild. However, the offspring of these cats could be considered legally wild, and the owner of land on which feral colonies exist could be considered the owner of the cats. Therefore, in juris-  SEE FERAL CATS ON PAGE 22 The 6 PILLARS OF CHARACTER COUPON FOR Trustworthiness : Parents, community partners: when observ- ing children use this Pillar of Character, please sign and date. The student turning in the most coupons to Main St. Eatery by September 1, 2011 wins a prize. Please make copies. Additional coupons for other Pillars of Char- acter will be published in the Desert Messenger throughout the summer. Trustworthiness: • Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country Act of Caring performed: ______________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ Child’s Name: ___________________________ Child’s Age: ________ Date________________ Signature_______________________________

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