The Animal Doctor

To Kill or Not to Kill?

DEAR READERS: The consequences of invoking the right to life for others coupled with the doctrine of ahimsa (not harming or killing), which prohibits compassionate mercy killing and death with dignity, results in much otherwise avoidable suffering in some countries and segments of society, as my wife Deanna Krantz and I document in our book, "India's Animals: Helping the Sacred and the Suffering."

Quality of life concerns can be confounded by personal, religious and politically contentious right-to-life beliefs. So the terminally ill and suffering are put on life support, unadoptable dogs are incarcerated for life in no-kill shelters, many with chronic health issues, and cats are neutered and released into unprotected environments. To not consider each individual's quality of life and to claim they have a right to life regardless of the consequences is tantamount to abdicating ultimate responsibility as their guardians and caregivers.

DEAR DR. FOX: I have a problem that is slightly different from the other articles I have read on the trap-neuter-release (TNR) program.

I live in Virginia, where feral cats are protected by code. However, I have a neighbor who "rescued" a cat. She brought it home and dumped it outside. She may feed it, but it is essentially is a feral cat with no human contact. It is never permitted in her home. It terrorizes the neighborhood. Neighbors complain that it stalks their bird feeders. I have a koi pond, and it spends hours on our property every day.

Our wonderful golden retriever, who loves the world and everything in it, now barks at this cat when it comes onto our property ever since the day we discovered the partially eaten remains of one of our fish. The cat even stalks us when we walk, which becomes a major distraction to this normally pleasant event.

I'd like to know why owners of cats are not held to the same level of responsibility for behavior and damage as other pet owners. By law, I can do nothing to protect my home and property from this menace. I fear for my dog's safety, as I am sure this cat's claws can do major damage, should it ever become cornered. My physical safety is also at risk, as the cat has caught both my dog and I off guard several times as we came out of the house. I came close to falling recently when it jumped out of a bush less than 2 feet from where we were walking. I have also experienced financial loss, as there is monetary value associated with my koi.

I am a cat lover. I kept my three cats inside, where they lived happily into their teens. This cat has become much more than a nuisance.

I do not understand how this can be OK. -- M.D., Virginia

DEAR M.D.: I understand your predicament, and the absurdity that "feral cats are protected by code" in your state.

There should be municipal codes concerning free-roaming animals who should not be allowed off owners' property. Get signatures and push for an appropriate code. In some municipalities, a collar and rabies tag must be worn, otherwise any animal can be caught by animal control.

Local authorities need to be educated about the very real public health and wildlife risks of free-roaming cats in the community. The animal protection organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been very involved in this issue, and I regret that TNR has become a virtual cult of misguided affection and pro-life sentiment, which is doing more harm than good for cats and communities across the nation.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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