News that the Police Union of Senior Staff has called for controls over ownership of Maine Coon cats, following the serious concerns raised by recent misidentification of one as the Essex Lion, raises interesting points about the extent to which cat-lovers should be required to place their pets on a central register.
So, the Essex Lion turns out in all probability to have been a Maine Coon cat. Those of us who questioned whether Essex Police were potentially over-reacting to the reports now accept that problems with perspective can confuse the best of us.
Although there is no need at all for those caught up in the scare to be embarrassed, Felix Silvester, spokesman for the Police Union of Senior Staff – an organisation representing senior police spokespersons – has announced that the Union are calling for registration of Maine Coon cats:
These animals are not like normal cats. For one thing, they are bigger. For another they are quite possibly fiercer. The fact that the Essex Lion scare went on for as long as it did is unavoidably connected to the fact that there is no register of Maine Coon cats. If there had been one I’m sure it’s the first thing Essex Police would have checked. The Police Union of Senior Staff is calling for a compulsory register of all Maine Coons.
This raises important points both for animal rights and privacy activists. Although the concept of “personal data” in the Data Protection Act does not currently extend to animals, a proposed European Commission directive may change that. The Directive 12/666/EC on Monitoring Information on Animals and Other Wildlife states that
the definition of personal data…should be extended to all domestic animals, and some ruminants
While this is wholly sensible, and something respected commentators have been calling for for some time, it must be observed that none of the protections afforded to human data subjects will extend to feline ones. Cats could find themselves subject to unlimited detention and inhumane treatment (because they are not human).
I remain deeply suspicious of Mr Silvester’s comments, and do not think that the embarrassment of an entire police force justifies such draconian measures as a compulsory register.