THE CASE FOR COMPULSORY CAT CONTAINMENT:

Conditional support for containment

The TCT supports the state government’s proposal to legislate to make containment of pet cats compulsory, but our support is conditional.

The government must phase-in compulsory measures, over several years at least, and fund effective education programs during this time to ensure that every cat owner is informed of their responsibilities and has time to put in place effective containment measures.

The government must seek to understand the needs and concerns of cat owners and to provide practical support and advice to help people to put in place effective containment measures. Government assistance is most important for those on a low income, where it should contribute to the cost of materials and construction, and where cat owners face barriers such as councils and land lords making it difficult to build an enclosure.

The TCT’s survey on cat confinement found very high levels of support from cat owners and non owners for government assistance.

Equally important is to fund an education program to advise cat owners on how to help their cats adapt to containment. A contained cat must have its basic needs satisfied and have sufficient enrichment activities. Some contained cats exhibit behavioural problems but we are reassured by veterinarians that these can be addressed. The government needs to lead by assuring cat-owners that there are solutions and identifying where help can be found.

The penalties for allowing a pet cat to stray must be proportionate and fair. In particular, there must be a legal guarantee that a pet cat will not be euthanised after straying once where it can be shown straying was an unavoidable accident, such as a tree falling on the enclosure or another person releasing the cat. The Dog Management Act has a similar safeguard against euthanasia of dogs that bite people after being provoked.

Powers to enforce cat containment laws should be optional for the councils to adopt depending on the level of community concern and the impact on priority wildlife. This is the same as with existing measures in the Cat Management Act that allows councils to choose whether to declare cat prohibited areas or appoint cat control officers, or not.

There is still some debate about how far from a house it is fair to allow a cat to be contained. However, if a cat owner lived on a bush block, even a small one, allowing the cat to roam that entire property is somewhat absurd. Even if it were possible to ensure the cat stayed within the property boundaries, it would still be able it to kill all manner of wildlife.

If a backyard includes bushland there needs to be a limit on the size of the cat’s enclosure, to minimise the potential for cats to have access to native species. Having said this, there are no containment systems we are aware of which completely eliminate access to native animals, but done properly access will be significantly reduced.

 

Reasons for containing cats

There are many reasons to contain cats. Straying cats can be a nuisance. They leave faeces and hunt wildlife in the gardens of neighbours. Some people just don’t like cats.

As some letter writers have said, all people have an obligation to keep their pets in their own yard.

Cats prey on a wide variety of native animals and this is not limited to those living near to a reserve. Many backyards have remnants of bush or native gardens established to attract wildlife. Cats are very effective hunters and can kill birds, small mammals, lizards and frogs. Ground nesting birds are most vulnerable e.g. penguins, hooded plovers etc, but other species that nest or feed in low bushes such as robins and honey eaters are also very much at risk.

Many cat owners have stories to tell of their cat being killed or injured by cars and coming home with injuries or contracting diseases after fighting with other cats or dogs. If these cats survive they may require expensive veterinary treatment. Confinement may save your cat’s life, save you a lot of money and stop you worrying about where your cat is.

Recently we have heard of cats being attacked by snakes, and Reptile Rescue recommends all cats be kept indoors during summer.

It is easy to speculate that cat-owner’s who oppose cat containment may have just been lucky to have not lost a cat.

Another group of people who have an interest in cat containment are those who are participating in feral cat control programs or may do so in the future. If community groups can responsibly run cat trapping programs then they should not have to deal with pet cats turning up in traps. Confinement of pet cats is an important prerequisite for a feral program to commence.

Some people have suggested that the vast majority of cat owners will contain their cat of their own accord, and that compulsory containment is unnecessary. However, even if this were true, wildlife managers need the power to compel people to contain cats where there is potential for high level of harm to wildlife.

Response to concerned cat owners

Most cat owners who have written letters complaining about cat confinement have legitimate concerns that can be addressed.

With the government’s help, practical issues such as the cost of containment and dwellings being unsuitable for containment can be addressed. Complaints that there will be a flood of cats being dumped are probably exaggerated and can be avoided if government provides some assistance. The same was said when the Cat Management Act was introduced and yet no flood of cats occurred.

Some letters have said that containing pet cats will not reduce the number of cats, because ferals will still be out there and breeding. This ignores the risk to pet cats from straying and the nuisance they cause neighbours. It also ignores the risk that your cat can currently be legally shot if it strays onto sheep and cattle farms and may get caught in traps laid by community groups.

But the argument that is most frustrating, as there seems to be no evidence to support it, is the claim that cats are ‘a free-spirit’, and that it is natural for a cat to roam and that they only hunt other introduced animals and keep them in balance. If evidence is provided to show that some cats only prey on introduced species or a veterinarian believes that confinement will be inhumane, even in large enclosures, an exemption should be granted, as is currently the case with de-sexing. But just because there are difficult cases is not a reason to give up on compulsory containment.

 

Peter McGlone is the Director of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and is a member of the state government’s committee charged with responsibility to prepare a Tasmanian Cat Management Plan. Last December the TCT released the results of its survey on cat confinement that found strong support for compulsory confinement.

The Tasmanian Conservationist

TCT HAS BEEN WRITING ON CONSERVATION ISSUES IN TASMANIA FOR ALMOST 50 YEARS.

As such we have a large volume of written resources. Our periodical newsletter is reproduced here, with the most recent posts appearing first, keep scrolling down to see posts in chronological order.

If you are looking for something specific you can use this search function to find past articles.

Search by keywords that you think may appear in the article. For instance, if looking for information on the Super Trawler, search "Super Trawler". We also publish our Submissions and Policy documents online. Below are some of our most common topics.

Tasmanian Tyre Clean Up - Volunteers Wanted

The Tas Conservation Trust needs volunteers to help cleanup 600 used car tyres ready for recycling 

Where: 294 Old Forcett Road, Forcett
When: On Friday 24 February – 9 am to 12 noon & Saturday 25 February – 9 am to 12 noon
Why:

The owner of this property rescues and rehabilitates horses. The 600 car tyres are a fire hazard for the owner and the horses. The Tasmanian Conservation Trust is paying to have the tyres taken away and recycled by the Melbourne company ‘Tyrecycle’.

But we need volunteers to collect and stack the tyres ready for collection. Some tyres also have dirt inside that needs to be removed before they can be accepted by the recycler. Please come along if you have a spare hour or two.

What to bring:

  • Wire brushes or other stiff brushes.
  • Gardening gloves.
  • Wear sturdy shoes, long trousers, long-sleeve shirt, bring a hat and sun screen.
  • Bring your own drink and snacks.

Further information:
Peter McGlone
Tasmanian Conservation Trust
0406 380 545

 

Director’s report May 2016

Director’s report May 2016

First, let me apologise for the long period since the last newsletter. We have had a few changes here at the TCT, most significant being the departure last December of long serving TCT officer manager Trish McKeown. Those who knew Trish would know she didn’t want a great fuss being made about her, but I do feel it necessary to say thank you to her publically on behalf of all TCT members, councillors and staff, past and present.

Two futures for Rosny Hill

Two futures for Rosny Hill

In the August 2015 Tasmanian Conservationist issue no.335 I wrote about a very worrying proposal for a large tourism development in the Rosny Hill Nature Recreation Area, on Hobart’s eastern shore. This very important, if small, reserve of 20 hectares includes numerous threatened flora and significant grasslands and forest communities. The proposed development would have a footprint of about 30% of the reserves area, including 120 accommodation suites, a function centre catering for 300 people and a 150-seat restaurant.

One lucky little Devil

Reducing the number of native animals killed on our roads has been a major TCT campaign for three decades. The issue is now accepted and publicised as having serious consequences for our native species and there is agreement that it requires more coordinated, sustained action. To catalyse this, TCT is currently undertaking a survey of all Tasmanian road managers, to determine their strategies and actions to reduce roadkill within their jurisdictions. The survey will help to gauge where there might be better coordination of resources and effort, that might lead to fewer deaths and injuries of animals on our roads. As part of its response, Hydro Tasmania sent the following article from Stornaway.

​TCT exposes flaws in Freycinet Plan changes

​TCT exposes flaws in Freycinet Plan changes

With just a few days before submissions were due on the proposed amendments to the Freycinet National Park Management Plan, the TCT discovered the true implication of the proposal. In our media release of Sunday 29 February 2016, we exposed the true consequences of the proposed amendments, which go well beyond the government’s stated objective of allowing expansion of Freycinet Lodge.

Firewood collection best practice

Firewood collection best practice

The TCT has long advocated for better management and regulation of firewood collection. As well as encouraging other heating methods, we have supported a move away from sourcing wood from old-growth trees (alive, dead or fallen) because of their importance for biodiversity, towards using young regrowth trees from forests that are not habitats of threatened species or ecological communities. Until recently, my support of plantation wood for firewood had been dismissed.

Forestry Tasmania’s FSC application hits obstacles

Forestry Tasmania’s FSC application hits obstacles

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Forest Management audit report, produced by auditing company SCS Global Services, was released by Forestry Tasmania on 1 March 2016. The state government responded by acknowledging that 90% of the auditor’s forest management standards were met, missing the point that there were 12 major non-conformities and just one prevents certification being granted.

Fire in the wilderness

Fire in the wilderness

The bushfire situation in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) has worsened significantly in the last 40 years. In the early 1980s, malicious and spiteful lighting of fires was rampant, particularly along the Lyell Highway, although this human malevolence seems to have largely abated. Accidental ignitions from campfires and other human folly require vigilant controls, but they are not the most significant threat. Since the early 2000s fires started by dry lightning have become the most significant concern.