June 01, 2005


 Catfight in Wisconsin over controversial plan

Posted May 15, 2005

Voters in Wisconsin approved a controversial proposal in a statewide referendum April 11 that would make free-roaming and feral cats an unprotected species, possibly making them fair game for hunters.

The Conservation Congress, an independent group that advises the state government on wildlife, put the measure to a vote as a way of protecting Wisconsin's songbird population, millions of which are estimated to be killed by cats each year.

The nonbinding vote was 6,830-5,201 in favor of the plan. The question was not a proposal for a hunting season on feral cats, only whether or not to change their classification from a domestic species to an unprotected status. It is, however, the first step in allowing licensed hunters to shoot uncollared cats caught roaming outdoors.

Ed Sayres, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the plan "hearkens back to a time when bounties were paid for shooting stray dogs in the 1800s."

Although the Conservation Congress had taken no official position on the matter, it seemed that the initiative, which has garnered unpopular nationwide attention, had little chance of getting past the governor or state legislators. The Wisconsin VMA's Animal Welfare Committee opposes the plan as does Gov. Jim Doyle, who has been quoted as saying, "I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats."

The debate over legalizing the hunting of feral and free-roaming cats could be a moot exercise because, as of press time in early May, the Congress was still undecided about what action to take next.

"(T)here has been no decision made by the Conservation Congress to bring or not to bring this forward as a recommendation to the Natural Resources Board for consideration," Chairman Steve Oestreicher said.