Late last month, four cats were shot in Bridgetown, VA, while peacefully enjoying a meal. All four — two adult females and two kittens — died.

The cats were part of a managed feral colony being cared for by Spay the Shore, an organization running a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The two females killed had already been spayed, and prospective homes had been found for the kittens.

One of the colony’s caretakers, Cynthia Diggs, told a local paper she is afraid the shooter will return to kill the rest of the cats. “Tell people stop shooting. Please give us a chance,” she said.

The cats’ killing is a crime under animal cruelty statutes. Animal cruelty is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor in the Virginia, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.

While cases such as this justifiably draw anger and outrage, the biggest threat to the lives of feral cats is not deranged psychopaths with a guns, but government officials. Some recent examples:

  • The Tennessee Valley Authority is threatening to trap and kill all cats found on its 80,000 square miles of land.
  • Despite pleas for a moratorium from Alley Cat Allies, the city of Evanston, Ill., went forward with a plan to trap and kill a feral cat colony.
  • A recent court order has led to Los Angeles County, Cal., suspending funding for trap-neuter-return programs and TNR education. This will mean more feral cats will wind up in shelters and euthanized.

An estimated 15 million dogs and cats are killed in U.S. animal shelters every year. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy Shelter Statistics Survey found that over 70 percent of cats entering a shelter end up being put to death. For feral cats, this percentage climbs to nearly 100 percent.

In many places througout the country, officials are far too willing to deal with the issue of feral cats in the most simplistic, cruel way possible: kill them all. Considering there are probably over 80 million feral cats in the U.S., that solution would lead to a feline bloodbath.

As long as the proven, humane method of TNR is ignored, more and more feral cats will be killed. Sometimes they will be killed by some sick individual. Usually, though, they will be killed by the government.

Photo credit: Sara Goleman