New Restrictions and Laws Are Needed

RECEIVED Mon., Dec. 12, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Rachel Proctor May and The Austin Chronicle are to be praised and congratulated on the outstanding articles relating to the many problems associated with feral and free-roaming cats (to include "owned" and TNR – trap, neuter, and return cats) [“The Bloodthirsty Killers of Circle C,” News, Dec. 9]. It is well-documented that such cats constitute a significant human and animal health threat, are an ecological disaster (decimating populations of small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, as well as inappropriately competing with native midsized predators), constitute an enormous "social nuisance,” and pose the potential for significant legal concerns. Allowing cats to roam free is also a significant humane concern. Free-roaming cats live high-risk lives, dying agonizing deaths from disease and trauma. Regarding TNR cats ... if it is inappropriate and inhumane to abandon animals, how can it be appropriate to "re-abandon" them?
    It is critical that cities like Austin, and surrounding municipalities and counties, pursue ordinances mandating "cat containment" by owners and feline advocates. Imagine this scenario: A young child is bitten by an "owned" free-roaming cat, or a "TNR colony" cat; the cat cannot be recovered for rabies confinement and observation, the child receives anti-rabies shots, developes a severe allergic response, resulting in hospitalization or, perhaps, death. A skilled lawyer might well pursue such a case against the municipality and/or any individual who allowed the cat to roam free in spite of the known inherent risks. Physical pain and psychological pain might be a part of such a suit. Individuals and municipalities can ill afford such eventualities.
    Please encourage elected officials in Austin, and elsewhere, to adopt cat licensing, identification, immunization, and confinement laws and commit to vigorous enforcement via citations and fines. Such responsible action taken by local officials will ensure safer and more enjoyable lives for humans, wildlife, and the cats themselves.
Paul L. Barrows DVM, PhD
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