People from all over Dane County packed into the Alliant Energy Center Monday night for the Conservation Congress meeting.
While there was a whole laundry list of issues, the proposed hunting of feral cats took center stage.
Proposal protestors greeted meeting attendants clad in cat outfits, demonstrating their disapproval.
Wisconsin Cat member Ted O'Donnell says, "We want to attack the problem of feral cats and not the cats themselves, and we want people to understand there are effective non lethal solutions available."
The solution under scrutiny is Question 62, listing feral cats as an unprotected species, allowing hunters to shoot them.
That's why long lines filed into the meeting rooms, hundreds turned out to vote.
"I expected to have a good size turnout," says Conservation Congress Delegate, Jayne Meyer, "People are concerned and it's great because it's time people get involved in the dialogue."
Opponents of the proposal flooded to the microphones, many full of emotion.
"To pick on a domestic animal is ridiculous. I was so surprised that we were killing doves, which are the sign of piece, now we're going after cats. What's next, dogs?" says one opponent.
They say hunting cats is neither a humane nor effective form of animal population control.
"The future of hunting and natural resource management has never hinged more than right now," says national hunting educator Dan Bertalan, "Than on the public perception, the public influence and the public affect on the future management of those resources."
Dr. Susan Krebsbach, President of the Dane County Veterinary Medical Association, says, "Trap, neuter and return, this method of control is scientifically proven to successfully reduce free roaming cat populations."
But one supporter says feral cats are not native to the state and they kill of native species, like songbirds.
"This is a good proposal because a lot of these trap, neuter and release programs are only spreading the cat overpopulation problem from the cities further out into the country and creating more problems where people do hunt," says Colleen Rohde-Szudy.
While delegates were happy with Monday's turnout, they hope citizens will stay involved in the future.
"They need to come out when the legislature has a hearing on mercury or stream degradation," says Meyer, "Stay involved and come back not just on one issue."
Other issues the Conservation Congress plans to take up Monday night, lowering the hunting age from 12 to 10 and strengthening regulations on mercury emissions.
As for feral cat hunting, the vote is advisory, not legally binding.
Delegates say the ballots should be tallied both countywide and statewide by noon Tuesday.
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