Shooting cats? What about dogs?

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    There is discussion in Wisconsin right now about removing cats from the protected species list, which would mean that hunters and property owners who encountered cats not under direct control of any owner or not wearing a collar could legally shoot them. This would put them on the same level as possums and skunks, where farmers, land owners, and hunters shoot these animals if they feel that the animals are being pests. Proponents of removing cats from the protected species list claim that this will help control the population of cats that kill small animals and threaten people.

    My question is, if we are to do this, why not extend it to dogs? Every year in this country, an estimated 5 million dog bites occur. Almost 800,000 per year require medical treatment. In 2001, 368,245 dog bite victims (nearly 1009/day, over 42/hour) had to go to emergency rooms to get treated. Dog bites cost Americans $1-2 billion (that’s with a B) every year. All of these statistics (source of most of them) only count bites. They do not even factor in the much more frequent incidents of dogs tripping or knocking down or otherwise physically assaulting victims unless the physical assault includes a bite. Even more, all of these numbers are increasing, in spite of laws designed to prevent bites and other dangerous situations.

    We have an epidemic on our hands and people don’t even seem to care. Just this past Saturday, I got tripped by a black lab while running in Minooka Park. My response to that after the fact was maybe this will be a good year, I made it nearly a full 2 weeks in Minooka Park before my first dog incident involving actual physical contact. How sad is that? I now consider going less than two weeks without being physically assaulted by a dog a good streak. As of now, I have run 15 times in Minooka Park on 13 different days over a 15 day period. Every single time I have run in the park, I have seen multiple loose dogs. This is a place where local laws require dogs to be on leash and park regulations require dogs to be on a leash that is no more than 6 feet long. I have contacted County Parks officials about this and they say they are powerless to act on it, even though a County Parks regulation is being violated, and that I should contact the police. I have contacted the police about this and they say that the manpower required to enforce the laws in the park are not worth it for this “nuisance law”.

    What am I getting at? People are up in arms about loose cats to the point that they want to have the right to shoot them. However, dogs are a much more significant threat to public safety than cats. If people consider the shooting of loose cats to be acceptable because they attack small animals and occasionally go after people, the shooting of loose dogs should also be acceptable because they attack the same small animals plus they attack people at alarming rates.

    Of course, most people who really know me know that I am a true animal lover and I cringe at the thought of allowing people to shoot either cats or dogs. I couldn’t imagine the thought that I could take my cat up to my mother’s house and, if he got out when someone wasn’t careful enough at a door, someone would have the right to shoot him. I don’t think shooting either cats or dogs is the right way to control the population of loose cats and dogs. However, I do think something has to be done as the loose dog situation especially has for quite some time gone beyond the realm of a nuisance and become a public safety issue. A nice start may be actual enforcement of leash laws.

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