Jim Stevenson is the founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society and is an avid bird lover. He also is set to stand trial this month for a felony cat murder.
A jury may decide if Stevenson acted within his rights when he shot a feral cat that was preying on a bird.
It comes down to the feral cat versus bird debate. Stevenson struggled with the question if feral cats are pets or pests.
“They see it as a choice,” said Stevenson. “Does Jim shoot the cat or not shoot the cat? But that’s not the choice,” he said. “It’s a choice of who dies, the cat or the bird. By acting or not acting, I had to choose who dies.”
The incident happened in November 2006. Stevenson drove to the beach that was 15 minutes from his house. He saw some piping plovers, which are endangered birds, sleeping. A limping cat was about to come up on the birds when Stevenson appeared, and the cat escaped into the darkness.
He went home and went on the Internet to research Galveston’s city code. The code requires pets to have tags, and all pets are prohibited on the beaches. Texas penal law made it a crime to kill animals, but only those “belonging to another.” Stevenson felt like this cat that he saw on the beach was not someone’s pet because there were no tags and it was on the beach.
The next morning, Stevenson got his .22-caliber rifle, loaded into his Ornithological Society van, and decided to go cat hunting.