Dr. JF: I agonized over whether or not to make a statement. I was uniquely qualified in this matter. I grew up in rural NW Florida, so I understand the ways of the farmers and how they deal with animal problems. I told the lawyer that if I had to testify in court, no one would understand my statements. The prosecution wanted to drop the charges. They showed me pictures of the two kittens and asked if I could tell if they had a cold. I couldn't tell.
I just felt that this was the wrong case, the wrong man, to demonize. He is a sixty year old man, who raised eight kids. He was going to lose his retirement, lose everything. I didn't want to demonize him. This wasn't a case of cruelty - those kittens died without feeling a thing.
You have to understand, that to farmers cats are vermin. They don't want spay and neuter - they want the cats removed. Feral cats are nobody's pets. They are crazy, they are starving to death, the carry and transmit diseases like rabies. Vets won't go out to the farms and treat the animals because the farmers can't pay and there's no money to be made. Animal control won't help these farmers, so what are they to do? Farmers deal with sick, injured and unwanted animals this way. and have for years and years. The AVMA recognizes a blow to the head as a humane way of disposal - I checked. You'd think shooting them would be more humane, but it makes noise and draws attention, and it's not as humane.
A lot of these cats that farmers deal with are dumped on them by city people. These city people that are going to Iraq dump their cats on some farm, thinking they'll live a happy life out in the country. For the farmers, feral cats are a city problem. And while kittens are cute and fluffy to us city people, to farmers they're vermin. While it violates my sensibilities as an animal person, I understand what these farmers need to do.
MM: Have you heard of Animal Protection League?
Dr. JF: Yes, but I don't think they're very active anymore. Twenty years ago they did a lot, but not now. I'm not sure what they're mission is anymore. I have referred a few people to APL here and there, but without good outcomes. They were turned down by APL.
I talked with Mr. Lee and explained to him that he shouldn't do this anymore, and he said he understood. He's been dealing with animal problems this way his entire life - that's all he knew. I thought this man needed education, not to be demonized.
MM: Education is a part of our mission. You stated that Mr. Lee, a sixty-five year old man had been killing animals this way his whole life. Remember that it was once considered normal for a man to beat his wife and children too. I would think that as we become more enlightened as a society, we can't accept the excuse "that's the way it's always been done" as valid. Do you really think he's learned anything? Do you think he'll change?
Dr. JF: He may not, but think about all the people he talks with about his experience and how he may change their minds. Jail was not the answer for this man. Besides, he got community service.
MM: No, he didn't. He was given 12 months probation - that's all.
Dr. JF: Well, I don't know about that. I run a non-profit rescue center that adopts out 1300 animal per year. I used to take in cats, but I don't anymore because we were overloaded with them. My assistant has nine cats, but not any of them are hers. They were all dumped on her property. Feral cats harm wildlife. I'm for animals - all animals including wildlife. What needs to happen is to form a group of people to go out to these farmers, to trap and triage the cats. Evaluate them: this one is crazy and there's no hope for him, this kitten might be adoptable...
MM: So you suggest to roundup cats, and euthanize them all? You said ferals are nobody's pets, so what else do you do with them? And as a vet, would you offer your services to spay/neuter and vaccinate the cats that are rounded up and deemed adoptable?
Dr. JF: There would have to be some money involved. I'd at least have to cover my costs. I would be willing to do a low cost service.
MM: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me and giving your side of the story.