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.


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No [Claudette], I don’t need you to agree with me. As for the editorial, it’s mostly BS. It doesn’t adequately discuss property rights. The ex-cop has a property right to not have the neighbor’s cat ruin his yard. The irresponsible, entitlement-minded cat owner does NOT have a right to have her cat roam around crapping in all the neighbor’s yards. Worse yet, drowning a cat is NOT “aggravated” cruelty to animals.
When I was a kid, that, and a 22LR slug to the brain was how excess and/or nuisance cats were gotten rid of. Sawing off a leg or pour on gas and lighting the cat on fire would be “aggravated cruelty”.
I intend to write a legal essay on the subject and talk to the DA about the case. There is no excuse to prosecute the guy for a felony for merely defending his property, other than to overcharge in hopes of extorting a guilty plea on a lesser charge, and I oppose plea bargains on principle.
The way the guy gave the dead cat back to it’s owner was tactless and rude, but tactlessness and rudeness are not crimes.
The lesson to be drawn is that if you have to kill a neighbor’s cat, do it silently, without being observed, and dump the body in a dumpster somewhere or out in the desert somewhere so the coyotes and magpies can eat the evidence.
Not one word was said in the BS touchy-feely editorial about the irresponsibility of the cat owner. As a vegan environmentalist teetotaller animal lover and animal owner (2 dogs, 4 cats and 30 pasture-roaming chickens), I don’t appreciate that.
I have personally lost two cats (one was exceptional) to a neighbor who has champion homing pigeons, some of which are worth thousands of dollars. As a result we keep our cats inside. It didn’t occur to me to blame the neighbor because my cats went over on his property and tried to eat his birds.
So, IMO, the Sentinel can stick it’s “feel good” propaganda editorial “where the sun don’t shine.” Hopefully a jury of common-sense local folks will refuse to convict for a felony. If I were on the jury, I would refuse to render even a misdemeanor conviction for drowning a nuisance cat.
If killers of nuisance cats are going to be prosecuted for felonies, in my opinion, the following quote is dead on point:
“The important thing is this: that it isn’t your fundamentals in economics that have collapsed. It isn’t that you lack the amount of money. It isn’t that you lack the amount of technology. It isn’t that you lack the entrepreneurial spirit. It isn’t that you have all those things that Sam Huntington says ‘you have up north that we don’t down south’. It is essentially that your legal system that creates trust among each other has collapsed.” ~ Hernando De Soto

Well can we all join hands and sing kumbaya now? Many of us have had these conversations with our neighbors, many of whom are irresponsible pet owners. Many of us have also called Mesa County animal control, an organization that unless you have three recordings, eight eye-witnesses, and a slew of other ridiculous and burdensome requirements, refuses to do ANYTHING about “pets” who incessantly bark, pee, poop, and roam and ruin our yards and personal property. As Mr. Wilkenson points out, drowning the cat was dumb, to say the least. However, perhaps Mr. Haynes had tried all reasonable means to get the pet owner to take responsibility and was at his wits end. I too am sick and tired of peoples precious little animals crapping on my back deck, using my patio furniture as their pet beds day and night, and running through my yard like its a damn wild animal refuge. The broader implication here is not that I need to chase down my neighbors and ask them about Fido and Fluffy, but that I shouldn’t have to shoulder that responsibility to begin with.

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