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Documentary on Wisconsin fight to kill wild cats to air

By jim Published: April 17, 2009

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — For anyone who wants to relive it, a television show is about to air recounting the heated debate over whether Wisconsin hunters should be allowed to shoot feral cats.

"Here, Kitty Kitty" is scheduled to run on Wisconsin Public Television at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Madison filmmaker Andy Beversdorf started putting the documentary together in 2005.

La Crosse firefighter Mark Smith suggested to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress that year that free-ranging wild cats be classified as an unprotected species, a designation that would allow hunters to shoot them on sight. The congress is a group of influential sportsmen who advise the state Department of Natural Resources on policy.

Fifty-six percent of outdoor lovers who attended the congress' statewide meetings in April 2005 approved the plan. But the idea outraged cat lovers and Smith even received death threats. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle said hunting cats would make Wisconsin a national laughingstock — even though cat hunting was already legal in Minnesota and South Dakota — and Republican legislators lined up to fight any proposal that emerged.

The congress ultimately decided to drop the idea in May 2005.

Beversdorf interviewed Ted O'Donnell, owner of three cat pet supply stores in Madison. O'Donnell gathered more than 17,000 signatures in an online petition to oppose the plan.

Also featured in the show is Stan Temple, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who produced a study blaming cats for killing millions of birds. In the film, Temple plays a voicemail from a woman who whispers, "You cat-murdering bastard. What goes around comes around. I declare Stanley Temple season open."

Smith, 52, chose not to participate in the documentary, telling the La Crosse Tribune newspaper he was burned by the media and turned off by extremists on both sides of the question.

He still believes something should be done about feral cats, he said.

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