How much is a raccoon’s life worth to you?

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I was struck by the similarities between the recent news story about a high school coach in California who hurt and ultimately enlisted her cousin to kill a raccoon in her yard and the case of the woman who killed a cat with a bow and arrow. The raccoon did not attack her. He was simply living his life and had the poor luck of crossing this woman’s path. Apparently lacking any self-awareness, the woman posted the story (along with a picture of the raccoon) on her Facebook page. Except for the fact that the photo she posted showed the raccoon before his death, the story is eerily similar to the case of Kristen Lindsey.

Lindsey, a veterinarian in Texas, shot and killed and cat with a bow and then posted photos of the dead cat on Facebook. It set off a social media firestorm, making international news. Even the Daily Mail, a popular British tabloid with a huge circulation, covered it. The case continued to get coverage because Lindsey’s disciplinary hearing by the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners dragged on. Ultimately, the board suspended her license for one year, followed by a four-year probation.

In comparison, there hasn’t been much uproar over the raccoon. The school suspended her for two games, and the story did make the local paper. A few people on Facebook also shared their anger, but “justice for the raccoon” pages have not popped up on Facebook. While there are individuals who are upset and posting on social media expressing their outrage, I predict the story will disappear into the morass of the internet soon.

Again, it’s important to note the major difference between Lindsey and the raccoon. The picture posted to Facebook was of a live raccoon. Lindsey posted a photo of a dead (or dying) cat with an arrow through his head. A normal picture is worth a thousand words and that picture might have been worth a few million. So that does make up for part of the lack of outrage. The other difference is that the cat in the Lindsey case was allegedly an owned cat named Tiger.

This raccoon was nameless, one of many. It shouldn’t be that way.

A quick search of recent news stories makes it obvious that raccoons are intelligent and even goofy animals. In Florida a raccoon was seen teaching her baby to avoid cars. In another story, a raccoon shut down a store in Texas after wandering in searching for a snack. The raccoon killed in California had a distinct personality which we will never know.

When people see “nuisance” wildlife as individuals rather than pests, things will change for the better. Wildlife trapping is a huge industry. Even “compassionate” people who care deeply about cats and dogs enlist their services from time to time, preferring not to think about how the trapper will likely (legally) kill the animal in his truck. People’s indifference to the suffering of farmed animals and local wildlife in comparison to companion animals or large exotic species like tigers and orcas (particularly those in captivity) is well-trod territory. We, as advocates, must do a better job demonstrating that each raccoon, each opossum, each bat is an individual.

To be clear: killing this raccoon wasn’t the answer in this case but neither is trapping and removing her. Learning to coexist with native wildlife is our duty–and deterrents and prevention are the best strategies to keep them out of homes. Look for more information and resources about living with wildlife from For All Animals soon.

Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Holtz is For All Animals’ director of legislative affairs. She is an animal rights attorney and lifelong animal advocate. Liz manages For All Animals’ coalition efforts to pass state laws that protect animals—like strengthening anti-cruelty laws—and defeating laws that harm animals—like ag-gag laws. She also oversees For All Animals’ Attorney at Paw program, which provides assistance to advocates interested in passing laws and ordinances that protect animals on a local level.