Not quite man’s best friend, the domestic moggy is a well-loved family pet. But our feline friends are also a threat to Australia’s native animals. Some wildlife campaigners are now calling for the nation’s cat flaps to be shut for good by a 24-hour curfew on cats. Anthony Laughton reports.
By ANTHONY LAUGHTON
CATS should be confined indoors under 24-hour curfews enforced by state and federal governments, according to leading wildlife campaigners.
Melbourne-based AWARE Wildlife said campaigners were concerned that current restrictions determined by local councils were neither tough enough nor sufficiently well policed.
Janet Wheeler, a rescuer working for the organisation, said cats were preying on native animals, especially in bushland, and many had to be put down as a result of their injuries. “It’s a huge problem,” she said.
AWARE Wildlife took 11 different species of native animals into care last year after they were attacked by domestic and feral cats, she said. Sixty-nine per cent died or had to be euthanised, and only 31 per cent recovered and were released.
No Australian state or territory imposes mandatory lock-up and release times for cat owners.
In Victoria, the 1994 Domestic (Feral and Nuisance) Animals Act gives local government the power to either prohibit or regulate the presence of cats in “specified areas”.
Some councils, including the City of Greater Geelong, have introduced dusk to dawn restrictions, but this does not apply in daylight hours.
Wheeler said native animals were not equipped to deal with an introduced predator, like a cat.
“We’d like to see a 24-hour cat curfew…I’d love to see it as a state or federal law, that cats had to be confined.”
Cats Victoria President Trish Newman said her association also wanted to see cats housed indoors.
“There is no need for them to roam, it creates more disease out there and makes cats more susceptible to illness.
“They’re safer and drivers don’t have to worry about road kill. They’re quite happy inside.”
Newman said a state law would be appropriate to implement mandatory cat curfews, as councils would be obliged to follow suit.
She said any new law should fall under the umbrella of Victoria’s Legislation for the Welfare and Management of Domestic Animals, which was changed last year to make it a requirement for newly-registered cats to be microchipped.
“There is a lot in the community that think cats should be banned outside all together. Any vet will tell you they live longer,” Newman said.
The RSPCA outlined its agenda on the issue in a document last updated in 2009. It stated that the organisation “encourages the containment of cats in an enclosed area, at a minimum from dusk until dawn”.
But Dr Richard Gowan, an executive member of the Australian Veterinary Association, said 24-hour cat curfews were not the solution.
“Studies have failed to back up claims that domestic animals impact significantly on native animal populations. Money will be better spent on public awareness campaigns and in some council areas, dusk to dawn curfews may be appropriate,” he said.
The Victorian Greens said they supported the implementation of cat curfews in the state.
But Rohan Leppert, a Green Party councillor in the City of Melbourne, said councils should first ensure that registration of the animals was up to date.
Aquaculture: Opening up a can of worms
The world’s appetite for fish is growing, and fish farms are the only way forward….
Cheaper, cleaner: the push for vehicle emissions standards
Independent groups are calling on the Federal Government to consider vehicle emissions standards as part…
Primary school welcomes Kitchen Cabinet’s rich harvest
Cooking legend Stephanie Alexander is pushing ahead with her plans to get kitchen gardens flourishing…
Adaptation the key to coping with climate change
Everyday life will have to adapt in all kinds of ways as climate change affects…
Guarding Toolangi forest
The tiny Leadbeater’s possum – Victoria’s faunal emblem – faces extinction as clearfell logging continues…
Australia’s new rush
Queensland farmers are discovering the dark side of coal seam gas mining while Victorian farmers…
A snip in time
Rising population is putting increasing pressure on the environment in terms of carbon emissions and…
Waste not, want not
In one of Melbourne’s trendiest food streets, a radical new waste facility is making big…
Born to die: the short, sharp life of a bobby calf
Hundreds of thousands of baby calves are slaughtered every year in Australia so that…
Threatened species win support
Major failings in current systems to help save threatened species were revealed in a recent…
Concern for threatened Eltham Copper Butterfly
Second only to bees as the most important pollinators, the butterfly is considered a critical…
Wind farm planning laws a barrier to meeting renewables targets
The Renewable Energy Target commits Australia to reducing its carbon emissions through a 20 per…