The ripple effect of a cruel, unnecessary killing

As soon as I heard my oldest son’s voice on the other end of the phone, I instantly knew something was wrong. In a solemn tone, he relayed that a neighbor had just confessed to shooting his cat. Stunned by his words, I sat quietly as my boy relayed the unpleasant encounter he just experienced.

The neighbor admitted to shooting the cat because it was on his property and he was tired of stray animals trespassing on his land. The man went on to explain that he had grown up in a rural area and was accustomed to shooting animals. He apologized for his action, yet deemed his motivation justified.

When my son finished describing the incident, he asked if I would come over because he now had to go inside and tell his wife the news. As I pulled into their driveway, they were both standing outside in the cold night air, the gusty wind muffling the cries from my daughter-in-law. With a heavy heart, I held her tightly as she spewed her anger between heavy sobs. In that moment, I felt my blood run cold visualizing that man killing the cat.

Jamal was an exceptionally unique feline. Having grown up with three robust dogs, the young cat exhibited many behaviors similar to his canine companions. He would bustle out the dog door with the pack to go outside and would often be found hanging out wherever the dogs were. While he was prone to venture off for short times during the day, he usually stayed fairly close to home.

Living on a quiet country dead-end road for the past several years, my son and wife have established a good rapport with the neighbors. The neighbor complained once last spring regarding Jamal’s curiosity with their enclosed chicken coup but had not spoken of it since. When Jamal didn’t come home for the second night in a row, my son naturally went to the neighbor to inquire if they had seen the cat.

When the man admitted to shooting Jamal, the confession blindsided all of us. Knowing that the cat was family to my son and his wife, how could a person murder so callously? Perhaps if the cat had been causing trouble or being a menace, I could understand this man’s motive. But to kill the cat with no regard for decency is absolutely shameful.

While visions of vendetta swirled in our minds, common sense prevailed and my son called the sheriff. When the deputy called the next day, he explained that he would file the complaint, interview the neighbor and pursue accordingly. He mentioned possible animal cruelty and criminal mischief charges could be imposed and then asked my son what value he would put on the cat.

Our domesticated household companions are actually categorized as personal property in many legal situations. For instance, when claiming a loss on personal property, a dollar amount is generally required to justify the damage. However, how do you put a dollar amount on the life of a pet?

Mesa County Animal Services has a link on their site at animalservices.mesacounty.us describing the local law for roaming cats. The site states there are no requirements to keep cats confined, nor laws prohibiting cats from being off their owner’s property. The site offers many tips on discouraging cats from roaming on your property in addition to information on nuisance animal removal companies.

State law clearly defines the law regarding cruelty to animals. One particular section describes both knowing intent or reckless negligence regarding the torture, needless mutilation or needless killing of an animal. While the law was conceived to prevent cruel acts enacted upon animals, how does it stop someone from shooting to kill?

As a rancher’s daughter, I have witnessed many animals being shot and fully understand the rights of a person to protect their personal property. I also understand that many people do not have the same passion for animals that I do. I had a reader email me several years ago who wrote, “The best way to deal with a roaming cat is a bullet.” While I do not have that capacity to kill, seemingly others do.

The only means of keeping a family feline safe from being shot is to keep them indoors. Whether the neighbor will face animal cruelty charges has yet to be determined. However, regardless of the outcome, unfortunately the chain of events not only took the life of one cool cat, it also destroyed a neighborhood camaraderie. Was it worth it?

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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