LETTER- Cat trial resembles witch trial

George Seymour shot a cat after he had dealt with felines damaging expensive cars parked on his property, and now he has been sentenced to jail [News, "Guilty verdict: Cat shooter gets jail time," August 24]. It is sad that a pet cat had to pay with its life for roaming freely, but Seymour's inclination to protect very expensive personal property on his premises should be understandable by all.  

Where are the property rights advocates who should be out in force to support this man? A property owner expects his personal property to be safe on his own premises, yet the law now gives pets specific rights that even humans do not possess– the right to trespass and to damage property at will.

     Pets allowed to wander could be run over by cars or be bitten by wild animals infected with rabies, both of which result in death. Indeed, the two children in this family would "still [be] having episodes of tearful nights" if the cat had died due to one of these other very possible circumstances. I certainly cried a lot as a child because my parents allowed our cats to roam the neighborhood.

     Incredibly, pet owners often describe their pets as their "children." Yet anyone who would allow a young child (the human equivalent of a pet) to wander around the neighborhood unsupervised would be accused of child neglect. Why aren't animal lovers, including veterinarians and the SPCA, speaking out against people who claim to love their pets like children but who forsake their responsibility to restrict the roving of their pets?

     Because of cases such as this, more and more heartstring laws are passed by legislators, such as Delegate Rob Bell, and embraced by judges, such as Judge Steven Helvin, who commented that cats are "important members of what makes up our community." But it is dangerous when laws are based upon emotion instead of intelligent reasoning. Witness the Salem witch trials of the 1600s.

     How is it that at the beginning of the 21st century, our legislative and judicial branches have not advanced beyond the 17th-century? This is 2006. We can do better.

Marlene A. Condon
Albemarle County