updated 5/17/2005 2:26:35 PM ET 2005-05-17T18:26:35

A month after Gov. Jim Doyle said a plan to allow hunters to shoot stray cats was making Wisconsin a laughingstock, the public advisory group that raised the issue decided Friday to let it die.

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“There is no need to push it any further,” Wisconsin Conservation Congress chairman Steve Oestreicher said of a proposed change to allow licensed hunters to shoot feral cats that kill songbirds and other wildlife.

The proposal ignited a firestorm among animal rights groups that called it inhumane and dangerous — and raised the specter that hunters would shoot cats that had only wandered from their homes.

Still, 57 percent of those at the Conservation Congress’ meetings in all 72 counties last month favored the idea, which supporters said would let people deal with nuisance stray cats.

Members of the Conservation Congress advise the state Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources, according to its Web site.

Delegates at the group’s convention in Manitowoc voted Friday to recommend the change to the Natural Resources Board, but the group’s executive committee decided against it. For the proposal to become law, it would need legislative approval and Doyle’s signature.

“The governor has indicated he would never sign a bill,” Oestreicher said. “It’s time to let it go.”

The La Crosse firefighter who proposed the idea, Mark Smith, complained the advisory group caved in to animal rights activists. But he said he won’t pursue the issue.

“I think it is wrong that these activists hold such power as they do,” he said in a telephone interview. “The politicians are all scared of them and lay down. I am one little guy who was looking to change something. It is not about animal cruelty, it is about individual landowner rights.”

Jessica Frohman, a spokeswoman for a Maryland-based group called Alley Cat Allies, hailed the decision. “I think cat owners and pet owners are going to be just as happy,” she said.

Some estimates indicate 2 million wild cats roam Wisconsin. South Dakota and Minnesota allow wild cats to be shot.

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