Hunters across the state will be asked to vote next month on whether cats should be hunted.
A La Crosse man who hunts and traps wants to make free-roaming domestic cats an "unprotected species" that could be shot at will by anyone with a small-game hunting license.
Mark Smith's suggestion will be placed before hunters on April 11 at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearings in each of the state's 72 counties. Smith, a 48-year- old firefighter for the city of La Crosse, said any cat not under its owner's direct control, or which does not have a collar, should be considered fair game.
"If I'm in the woods and see a cat that doesn't have a collar, then I could shoot it," Smith said. "It gives people some leeway if they want to remove cats."
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Cat enthusiasts Cheryl Balazs, Ted O'Donnell and Adam Bauknecht are trying to organize opposition to Smith's proposal. O'Donnell, a co-owner of MadCat Pet Supplies, recently set up a Web site, dontshootthecat.com, to inform people about it.
"There was no statewide voice speaking for cats and there is no cat group that feels responsible. We knew we had to do something," O'Donnell said. "I'd like to think we could be a no-kill state, like Utah."
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Mark Smith, the man who brought the proposal, said he is not a cat hater and has owned cats in the past.
"They don't belong in the environment. All I want is for people to be responsible for them," Smith said. "If I catch a cat in the yard in a live trap, I should be able to put that animal down."
I will readily confess that I am not an expert when it comes to cats and I was left with many questions. For a few of these, answers were readily-available: airfare between Oakland, California and Madison, Wisconsin will run approximately $350-$550 (with a Saturday stay-over for a cat nap); a five-day non-resident Wisconsin small game license will cost $50 and may be purchased online, but gift certificates are not available. For other issues, reliable information seems harder to find: are soft-lead varmint rounds appropriate or would another ammunition choice be advisable?
Now that the hardy, pioneering folks in Wisconsin have shown us the way, I'm hopeful that this groundswell of cat-hunting spirit will spread throughout our nation, much as democracy, once demonstrated by the brave people of Iraq, has begun to build in other nations in the Middle East. Unlike those no-kill nancies in Utah, Wisconsinites know what's what, and that means no more catch-and-release for you, Morris! Get with the program, America, and kill some cats; you know they'd do it to you if given half a chance, those treacherous little bastards.