Reduction of Feral Cats

Published on 25 March 2019

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Governments and communities around Australia have variously considered how to reduce the number and impact of stray and feral cats on agriculture, human health and native animal populations, and the nuisance impact of wandering domestic cats on residents of urban and rural areas. 

The scientific evidence for the impact of cats at large in native and cultural environments is considerable.  It is agreed there is need for a coordinated and effective program to address the number of cats at large. 

The Tasmanian Cat Management Plan outlines a revised approach to cat management by the Tasmanian government, including for feral and stray cats.  The Plan involves three major elements – responsible cat ownership to minimise risk of cats moving beyond the boundaries of the owners property; increased responsibility on local government to enforce compliance to statutory obligation on cat owners; and direct action to reduce the current population of wandering, stray and feral cats.  All three elements are necessary to a successful outcome. 

The Cradle Coast Authority hosts a regional cat management coordinator funded by the State government to support implementation of the Tasmanian Cat Management Plan to promote responsible cat ownership. 

The Burnie City Council has not to date engaged with the regional coordinator on cat management within the Burnie municipal area. 

The current Tasmanian Cat Management Act 2009 requires all cats must be microchipped, de-sexed (unless the owner is a registered breeder), and confined to the property of the owner.  The sale of cats is regulated. 

There is currently no obligation on a council to engage in cat management or to enforce compliance to requirements on cat owners.   

The Act allows a council may declare areas in which cats are prohibited, and areas where cats are to be managed.  A council has a power to seize cats in a prohibited or cat management area.  Seized cats must be held in a cat management facility, and may be destroyed if the owner does not collect the cat. 

The Act does not expressly specify a power to deal with feral cats.  Council would need to declare prohibited and cat management areas in order to establish an appropriate head of power. 

The Tasmanian Cat Management Plan includes recommendations to amend the Cat Management Act 2009 to introduce obligations on a council to undertake cat management. 

Local government has objected to the proposed legislation for reasons that it is not resourced to adequately address the proposed requirements.  Cat management is a function with requirements and skills that are not consistent with the duties and tasks of other council officers.  Additional staff and assets, including a cat management facility or cat pound, are necessary to undertake the proposed responsibilities.   

While dog control is now well accepted and expected by the community, the same cannot be said for cat control.  To be effective, there must be a comprehensive community education program.   

It is therefore recommended that Council invite the Regional Cat Management Coordinator to discuss the Tasmanian Cat Management Plan, the powers available to a council to undertake action to reduce the number of feral cats, and the resources required to be effective.