This is the time of year that I get on my soapbox and preach about pet leash laws. Today I ask your help in reminding friends and neighbors that their cats and dogs should only be outside if on a leash.

Free-roaming cats cause much problems beginning with hunting backyard birds. Tweety and Sylvester are not only fictional characters. Cats have an innate behavior that makes them natural born killers. Biologists estimate that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year in the United States.

These numbers are not only associated with feral (abandoned) cats, but a large number are people’s pets that they let roam outside. Chances are very high that your cat is killing birds on their venture through the neighborhood. In fact, some studies indicate that cats kill an average of 15-20 birds a year. If you times that by 116 million outdoor cats, it is highly significant.

One study in urban Kansas showed that 83 percent of 41 study cats killed birds. Owners were shocked to find feathers in their scat or to find their cat with remains of the bird.

Free-roaming dogs are also an issue. Each spring, park and zoo staff have cleaned up the remains of waterfowl in the park due to dog attacks. Even sadder is when we witness a mallard drake who lost his mate as she lay dying on the road. I implore to keep your pets on a leash so the parks can be enjoyed by people and wildlife.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the hunting, taking, capturing, or killing of any migratory bird. Not to mention the Endangered Species Act, which protects and restores wildlife at the risk of extinction. Even though endangered bird species are probably not being killed by your cat or dog, that does not mean that those species’ survival is not affected by the loss of native songbirds. Taking any species out of the ecosystem throws everything off balance.

CAT FACTS to consider:

Well fed cats DO kill birds.

Cats with collar bells DO kill birds.

Declawed cats DO kill birds. A declawed cat was found to have killed more cats than any other in at least one study.

Cats transmit diseases to wildlife.

Your cat will be healthier and live longer indoors, up to five additional years.

Each year the Chahinkapa Zoo faces problems due to people’s pets. Cats have killed zoo bird inventory and the folks who walk their dogs along the zoo perimeter fence show little concern for the stress of our animal residents. I remind you to please enjoy the park and all of its walk paths while staying away from the zoo fences.

Together we can have a healthy pet community while enjoying natural wildlife in our parks and backyards.

Kathy Diekman, director of

Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton

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