When I was a young girl being raised in Eureka, CA, it was not uncommon for my father to shoot cats that wandered into our yard. He told me the wayward cats were pests that needed to be killed. His actions and explanation confused me because some of my friends kept cats as pets even though many people in that era did not allow cats in their homes. I was young at the time and, believing my father knew best, I didn’t think much about my dad killing these animals other than deciding that what he was doing was strange.
Another influential figure during my youth, my aunt who lived in Redding, CA, bred one of her labs hoping to produce saleable hunting dogs. After she made the drive to visit my family, I overheard a casual conversation between my aunt and my mother during which my aunt described putting puppies in a bag. My aunt continued to explain that she had thrown the bag of puppies into the Trinity River as she headed toward our home. My mom didn’t even bat an eyelash as my aunt finished her story.
Even though I had never heard of anyone doing such a thing up to that point in my life, I knew what she had done was cruel and horrible. I cried and yelled at my aunt as I thought about the fate of those helpless puppies…as I thought about the pain and terror those living creatures must have experienced as they sunk to the bottom of the river without even a chance of making it out of the tightly cinched bag. My aunt responded to my outrage calmly, explaining that this was how things needed to be done.
My aunt’s response combined with her unrepentant demeanor left me speechless. As I stared silently at my aunt and my mother in complete disgust and disbelief, I realized that something was very, very wrong with these people, with my family members. I knew I didn’t belong with them. I knew that being adopted by this family was going to be a long nightmare as I was only ten at the time.
Now a grandmother, I currently live in Wisconsin, a state I love but one in which time seems to move more slowly than in some of the other places I’ve lived. I say this because it remains a common practice to shoot cats, or vermin, in this state decades after I was introduced to it by my father. Why is this?
After all, groups all over America are working to save cats by practicing TNR, or trap, neuter, and return. TNR involves humanely trapping cats, getting them “fixed” and inoculated at a veterinarian’s office, and returning them to the environment where they were initially caught. This practice is an effective way to prevent a feline population from growing to an unmanageable number.
Instead of TNR being a common practice in Manitowoc, however, there are people, like the lady I encountered yesterday, who are trying to preserve the lives of cats in their communities on their own. My recent acquaintance has been providing care for cats living near her home her whole life, but she’s been doing so in fear. She is afraid that some residents in her community will continue to poison the very cats she is trying to save from a painful death. She is also afraid that any one of her neighbors may report her to local authorities. And, she has a reason to be afraid because Manitowoc has an ordinance that states cats are not allowed to roam freely on area streets.
You read that correctly. Manitowoc essentially outlaws cats from being outside unsupervised. Why is this law on the books when cats have lived outside for centuries? And, why are there so few TNR groups in Wisconsin? Is it because there aren’t enough people who are interested in helping these animals?
No, I don’t think THAT’S it. Instead, I think Manitowoc’s laws may be preventing more individuals from providing care for the cats in their communities and TNR groups from taking action locally. While I haven’t reviewed all of the county’s ordinances as of yet, I plan to in the near future. I believe we all have a duty to protect the animals in our communities whether they live inside or outdoors, whether they have nametags or are anonymous.
Whether you love cats or not, they are going to continue to break the county’s laws and live among us outside. I think it’s about time we residents of Manitowoc take responsibility for our communities, educate ourselves and others about TNR, and garner as much support for the practice of TNR as possible. I think it’s time for Manitowoc to handle its cat population with the positive, humane approach that has worked in locations throughout the country. I think it’s time for Manitowoc to be an example for the rest of Wisconsin’s counties.