Friday, April 13, 2007

Birder Indicted for Killing Cat

This is pure lunacy. Texas birder Jim Stevenson, founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society, was indicted on a felony charge of cruelty to animals for shooting and killing a feral cat in an area near a toll bridge on the west end of Galveston Island where he had previously seen cats stalking “three snowy and two piping plovers, and several sanderlings.”

Under Texas law, one definition of cruelty to animals is “killing an animal without its owners consent.” But this was a feral cat. It didn’t have an owner, right? Technically, that’s true. But a bridge worker testified that “he and his peers regularly laid out food for the cats and had come to think of them of as pets.” And that is apparently enough to make them “owners” and the cats “pets” under Texas law. Is this type of testimony permissible in a court of law? There were apparently multiple cats in the area, so how were the bridge workers able to prove to the satisfaction of the grand jury that the cat killed by Stevenson was one of the cats that had accepted handouts from them?

It’s truly a sad day when feral and invasive cats receive more protection under our laws than do native birds. It seems to me that if it could be shown that cats being fed by the bridge workers were responsible for killing birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, then they could be charged with the illegal take of migratory birds under that Federal statute. This case is a major travesty.

Disclaimers: (1) I am not overly fond of cats, particularly feral ones, but I once tolerated a domesticated cat in my home for nearly 10 years. (2) I also killed a feral kitten that appeared in our yard. (3) On another occasion I removed a feral cat from our garage, where it had taken up residence and was being fed surreptitiously by a grandson, and transported it (unharmed) to an animal shelter.


Blogger Larry said...

-I know that domestic cats kill a lot of birds. I have seen this first hand as I often have to chase off my neighbor's cats.I can only imagine what a feral cat would do.-I have a hard time being in favor of shooting cats but I wouldn't pass judgement on it.I think bringing them to a shelter seems like the more humane way to go.-But maybe it just seems more humane.

April 13, 2007 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a birder who does not own cats; I think that feral cat should be humanely and strongly managed. That said, I caution you about making Mr. Stevenson a hero - or a public representative of birders.
On a trip with him to Alaska, I found a gun that he had smuggled through Canada. He told me he had packed it in case he saw a bird out of its normal range. He would shoot the bird so he could prove he had seen it. Mr. Stevenson appears to have little regard for the law. On the same trip, he drove like a maniac with clients in his van because he was sick of driving a particular road and having to share it with other tourists. He passed lines of cars on a curvy 2-lane road at 75mph in the rain. He also seems to have little regard for the safety of others.
Mr. Stevenson has an image of himself that is far removed from reality, and he defends this view angrily and vehemently. When confronted about his driving, he justified it by saying that he was able to do things that "other people" cannot do, implying some sort of innate superiority. He is the antithesis of the image birders have justly earned of being thoughtful, reasonable people.
We should disconnect the issues of Mr. Stevenson's "crimes" and the problem of feral cats. It is my belief that birds need to be protected from feral cats...and society needs to be protected from Jim Stevenson.

July 18, 2007 12:01 PM  

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