"There's no animal in this world that's worth a human life," said Erik Hendricks, executive director of the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia, which does not allow its agents to carry guns.
What if an irate pet owner pulls a gun on an SPCA officer? Rather than engaging in a shoot-out, Hendricks recommends, retreat and return another day with a trained, armed police officer.
Nowhere near as lethal, but no less confounding, is the case in Pennsylvania of Nutkin, the gray squirrel.
Nutkin belongs to Jean and Barbara Gosselin of Schuylkill Haven, Pa., who have fed and cared for the tame squirrel in their home for 10 years. They even rub its belly at night. While anyone with a backyard bird feeder must be shaking his or her head over such pampering of a varmint, clearly the Gosselins find this squirrel irresistible.
All was right with the world until one day in 2002, when the Gosselins called the Pennsylvania Game Commission to investigate a deer hunter trespassing on their 77-acre property.
The game officer did not see any poachers but did spy Nutkin, whose presence in the couple's home he found impossible to ignore.
There is a law in Pennsylvania against possessing "wild animals" without a permit. When the Gosselins refused to give up Nutkin, the officer cited them. In a nutshell, a two-year-long court case ensued, culminating in last week's ruling by the state Superior Court that the Gosselins can keep Nutkin. That's because Nutkin was reared in South Carolina, and Pennsylvania law declares that out-of-state critters are legal to keep as pets.
The Game Commission is considering an appeal. That would be nuts.
Having already demonstrated that it possesses a cold, cold heart, the Game Commission should at long last cease tormenting the owners of this harmless pet.