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Lawmaker Takes Flak From Offended Cat Lovers, Says He Is No Ailurophobe

March 30, 1987

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ Legislator Paul Jacques has been called a two-legged slob, a rat and an ailurophobe. One person said he ought to be shot, and another suggested neutering.

The critical mail and hostile phone calls have been relentless since he introduced a bill to put cats on an equal footing with dogs caught killing domestic animals: Offending cats could be killed.

Jacques denies that he is an ailurophobe - someone with an abnormal fear of cats - and says he never thought his bill would touch off such an uproar.

″We’ve had cats since I was a kid,″ he said, adding that his family has taken in a pregnant stray that sometimes naps on his chest while he watches TV.

Jacques introduced the bill at the request of a couple whose prize waterfowl were attacked by a neighborhood cat. In one attack, a goose lost five eggs worth $250 each, said Jacques.

Letter writers have described the bill as barbaric, sadistic, warped, moronic, simplistic and frightening. Writers make images of cats being clubbed, hanged, drowned, strangled and axed by children and emotionally unstable adults for killing robins.

Says one terse letter, ″He who dislikes the cat was in his former life a rat.″ Says another, ″This smacks of the Nazi mentality.″

One bitter feline fancier wrote that Jacques should be ″neutered,″ he said. Unidentified callers have suggested that Jacques himself be put away.

″I think if I had my choice I’d rather be shot than neutered,″ Jacques said wryly. He says there is another side, that of the many people who feel they are unable to defend their property from marauding cats.

A Portland woman said that finally someone ″has the guts″ to stand up to ″one of the worst predators of our song birds.″ Others say it’s unfair that dogs cannot roam free while cats can.

Observes state Rep. Patrick K. McGowan, ″There are no fence-sitters on this one.″

Jacques thinks people are overreacting to the ″cat bill,″ which is awaiting action in the Fish and Wildlife Committee. Many seem to think it would create an open season on cats that might use a neighbor’s lawn for a litter box.

″People love their pets,″ said animal rights activist Linn Pulis, who was pleased by the reaction.

She faults the bill because ″it does not say shoot - it says kill,″ leaving any means of extermination fair game. And it does not specify who should do the killing.

Jacques notes there’s been no slaughter of canines even though Maine law allows the killing of dogs attacking domestic animals. And the law prohibiting negligent or reckless killing of cats or any other domestic animals would stay on the books.

Still, letters decrying the cat bill pour in from as far as California. Cartoons poke fun at it. Animal-rights activists are circulating petitions. A British reporter called to interview Jacques. On the House floor, a legislative leader presented Jacques with a stuffed cat and two kittens, which he promptly kissed.

″I’ve tried to answer every letter, but found people just don’t want to know the facts,″ said Jacques, who represents Waterville. He is willing to listen to alternatives to make sure owners are responsible for a killer cat’s damages, or to see that offending cats are trapped live.

Director Clyde F. LeClair of the state Animal Welfare Board said he’s confident the differences can be worked out without loss of feline lives. That may involve more vigilance from animal control officers and making cat owners pay for damage.

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