Feral Cats: New Game for Hunters in New Jersey?
The state of New Jersey is considering reclassifying feral cats as "exotic" animals, a move which would open the door to allow hunters to satisfy their blood lust by shooting feral cats (or domestic cats who happen to be outdoors). Here's the story as reported by Colleen O'Dea in The Daily Record.
Animal groups: Could ruling lead to hunters shooting cats?
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A number of animal activists have contacted state officials in an effort to head off a potential reclassification of feral cats, which could end the growing number of programs that trap, neuter and return them back into neighborhoods or the wild, and allow them to be hunted.
The state Fish and Game Council has condemned the idea of leaving cats in the wild and now another committee that reports to the state Department of Environmental Protection is studying the issue of TNR programs.
"Nothing has happened or been proposed so far,'' said Michelle Lerner, who works with the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and helped start a TNR program in Mount Olive last summer. "We are trying to work with state agencies to make sure this ridiculous proposal does not see the light of day.''
In a letter sent earlier this month to DEP officials, the APL and seven other groups, including the Humane Society of the United States and the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, protested any effort to reclassify cats.
Such a reclassification could bring an end to TNR programs like those in Morristown, Mount Olive, Netcong, Boonton and Randolph, and could allow hunters to shoot cats.
Some members of the state Fish and Game Council have brought up the issue of feral cats at several meetings, dating back to May 2007, when the council voted unanimously on a resolution stating that feral cats do not belong in the wild.
Council member Leonard Wolgast was the sponsor of the resolution and has brought the issue of feral cats up at several council meetings. Some animal activists have questioned whether he should be allowed to participate in such discussions at all because he is listed as owner of the East Brunswick property where Blumig Kennel, which they say is owned and operated by his wife's family, is located. That kennel contracts with several communities in Central Jersey to pick up and euthanize cats.
Wolgast, of Somerset, did not return calls for comment.
Jeannette Vreeland, acting chair of the Fish and Game Council, asked in 2007 if feral cats could be added to the list of animals that could be hunted, according to council meeting minutes. This week she defended the 2007 resolution.
"When a cat is left to roam outside the house it becomes a character who kills birds and small mammals -- rabbits, chipmunks,'' she said on Thursday. "It's really not a natural, native animal. They are exotic and not meant to be outdoors.''
Assistant DEP Commissioner Amy Cradic said this week she could not comment on the specifics of the animal groups' concerns because she had just received their letter.