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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

AUTHOR: Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1900–65)
QUOTATION: I cannot agree that it should be the declared public policy of Illinois that a cat visiting a neighbor’s yard or crossing the highways is a public nuisance. It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming. Many live with their owners in apartments or other restricted premises, and I doubt if we want to make their every brief foray an opportunity for a small game hunt by zealous citizens—with traps or otherwise. I am afraid this Bill could only create discord, recrimination and enmity. Also consider the owner’s dilemma: To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat, and to permit it to venture forth for exercise unattended into a night of new dangers is against the nature of the owner. Moreover, cats perform useful service, particularly in rural areas, in combating rodents—work they necessarily perform alone and without regard for property lines.

We are all interested in protecting certain varieties of birds. That cats destroy some birds, I well know, but I believe this legislation would further but little the worthy cause to which its proponents give such unselfish effort. The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.
ATTRIBUTION: ADLAI E. STEVENSON, governor of Illinois, veto message, April 23, 1949.—The Papers of Adlai E. Stevenson, ed. Walter Johnson, vol. 3, pp. 73–74 (1973).

This was one of Stevenson’s first veto messages. “A small but devoted group of bird-lovers were able to have a bill introduced in the legislature designed to protect birds by restraining cats. In previous years it was passed by one house, only to be turned down by the other. In 1949 it passed both houses and the decision was finally shifted to the Governor. Stevenson’s message returning the measure became known as the ‘Cat Bill Veto’ and received widespread publicity, because of its wit and good humor. On April 27, 1949, the Chicago Daily News stated, Many Adlaiphiles immediately proclaimed it one of the noble pronouncements of our time, comparable to the boldest state documents from the pen of F.D.R. or Winston Churchill…. Mr. Stevenson did no pussyfooting on pussy’s perambulations. He did not seek to make a cat’s paw out of the Supreme Court by citing decisions of dubious relevancy. He categorically assumed full responsibility for his momentous decision. He did not assert that the bill’s effort to restrict felines to lives of sedentary domesticity was a violation of the Constitution. He invoked a higher law—the law of Nature’” (pp. 72–73).