The Walton County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said Sept. 27 that a local man who shot a feral cat to death will not be charged because feral cats are a “nuisance animal by definition” and have damaged the shooter’s property.
“This incident is not inhumane and did not result in a cruel death to an animal,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
The late-August incident sparked significant attention. Local and national cat advocates argued that the 81-year-old shooter violated animal cruelty laws when he kept shooting at the female cat despite pleas from her feeder to stop firing his gun. But the Sheriff’s Office said an “extensive and thorough investigation” found that the shooter “attempted various methods of dealing with the cat nuisance problem,” including speaking to the feeder and contacting animal control.
“Since 2009, the feral cats have caused damage to [the shooter’s] property to include damaging the clear coat to his vehicle due to the body fluids of the cats urinating and vomiting and destroying the carpeting of his boat due to the cats urinating and defecating,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
The cat was reportedly part of a “managed” colony in which feral cats are trapped, neutered and returned (TNR’d) to their outdoor environment. The incident took place in Freeport about 90 miles east of Pensacola.
Feline Friends of Destin, a cat welfare group about half an hour west of Freeport, said the decision not to charge the shooter underscores the need to better educate the public about feral cats and the value of TNR.
"We would love to see Walton County embrace community cats as more than just 'nuisance' animals and support TNR," the group tweeted.