Cat drowning points to bigger problem
The fact that an admitted cat killer has supporters speaks to the divisive nature of cats in general.
From a purely sociological perspective, cats seem to fall somewhere between vermin and dogs on the sanctity-of-life scale.
We freely kill insects, rats and bats — and possibly even squirrels or birds that try to nest in an attic space. A fox or a raccoon raiding a henhouse won’t last long in a rural setting. But cats and dogs — all domesticated animals, really — are a different story.
The bigger the animal, it seems, the more difficult it is to justify killing them. A landowner wouldn’t gun down a heifer or a horse that escaped the neighbor’s pasture and started grazing on the front lawn. But a stray cat turning a flower bed into a litter box?
Some people can kill a cat without batting an eye. Those who are tempted should understand that doing so could lead to a felony conviction. According to Colorado law, “A person commits aggravated cruelty to animals if he or she knowingly tortures, needlessly mutilates, or needlessly kills an animal.” Aggravated cruelty is class 6 felony.
Which brings us to Orchard Mesa resident Ed Haynes, who admitted to drowning a cat because he was sick of it ruining his landscape. The cat belonged to a neighbor, though Haynes says he didn’t know that.
Given the ongoing feral cat problem throughout the valley, it’s a wonder this isn’t more commonplace. But that’s an editorial for another day. We’re more interested in the underlying dynamics that give rise to these kinds of confrontations.
Haynes used tuna to bait a trap. Once he had the cat in the cage, he passed up doing the humane thing — the neighborly thing — which would have been asking nearby residents whether the cat belonged to them.
Instead, he drowned the cat, leading to a citation and potentially criminal charges for him and anguish for the cat’s owner.
This is where we step away from the ethical questions surrounding the killing of animals and look to the broader implications of what occurred.
It’s a microcosm of the eroding sense of community we’ve all experienced over the past two or three decades. Are we being overly nostalgic in remembering a time when we knew our neighbors well enough to know the pets they kept?
Somehow, on our way to becoming a country bitterly divided over partisan politics, we’ve let our most basic non-familial relationships wither. Many of us are content to hunker down in our homes and avoid interacting with our closest neighbors.
Much has been made recently of the concept of connectedness and how we can become a more caring community. Before we tackle the big issues like social capital and better sharing of resources, we’d be smart to get to know our immediate neighbors a tad better and have the little conversations that can head off big problems.