Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cat People Vs. Bird People

As you probably can tell from the title, our blog is driven largely by an interest in the law and a love for pets. So we couldn't help but notice a story that mixed those two subjects.

Unfortunately, the story has a disturbing result.

A bird-watching enthusiast is on trial in Galveston, TX, for fatally shooting a cat with a 22-caliber rifle. Defendant James M. Stevenson is the founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society. If convicted on animal-cruelty charges, he faces up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The cat lived under a toll bridge and was fed and cared for by a toll collector. Under Texas law, the case hinges on whether the jury finds the cat was feral. Stevenson was indicted under a state law that prohibits killing a cat "belonging to another." Prompted by this case, the law was changed on Sept. 1 to include all cats, regardless of ownership.

The case is expected to conclude any day.

Legal Schnauzer is inspired by, and dedicated to the memory of, our beloved miniature schnauzer, Murphy, who died in 2004 at age 11.

About six months or so after Murphy's death, two Siamese cats (a brother and sister named Baxter and Chloe) sort of fell into our laps. One of my wife's friends knew about them. They had a good home, with a husband-wife and two young children. But the husband developed allergies, so the family wanted to find Baxter and Chloe a new home.

We wound up being their new home, and we are grateful every day that they came into our lives. At the same time, we love the many birds who make regular stops at our place, particularly in our wooded backyard. We are aware, from reading news reports, of the terrible toll domestic cats take on the bird population. In fact, I seem to recall reading somewhere that the most efficient predator on the planet is the domestic cat. And their usual target, of course, is the wild bird.

This problem could be pretty much solved if people were responsible with their domestic cats. Get them spayed and neutered and keep them mostly inside. I have no idea why people have this notion that cats need to roam outside unattended.

A woman actually told my wife one time that cats are "street savvy." I saw what happened to a "street savvy" cat one morning as I was driving to work. A black-and-white cat, apparently being chased by another cat, ran headlong into the side of a passing mini van. The driver probably never knew what caused the thump on the side of his vehicle. I saw the cat's body twitch by the side of the road as I drove by helplessly.

I think it was game-show host Bob Barker, a well-known animal lover, who said that at his funeral he plans to rise up in his coffin and say, one last time, "Spay and neuter your pets."

Amen, brother.

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