In June 2016 the TCT made its submission to the Draft Tasmanian Cat Management Plan. The state government has been very slow to assess and respond to public comments and has not yet finalised the plan. Part of the reason for this long delay is that the plan includes a raft of very significant legislative changes, including a number that are controversial and need careful consideration before they can be announced as part of a final plan. We understand that the Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, intends to introduce the amendments in July 2017.
The proposal by the state government to make containment of pet cats compulsory is the most controversial move and has received a great deal of media comment recently (see feature article ‘The case for compulsory cat containment’). The other proposed changes to the Cat Management Act are:
- providing penalties for having an undesexed or unmicrochipped pet cat at large
- limiting the number of cats allowed at a property without a permit
- reducing the age at which cats must be desexed (currently six months) to four months or possibly lower
- widening the definition of primary producers who can destroy a stray or feral cat without a permit
- developing a code of practice for cat management facilities
- removing the current provision for care agreements, which allow for the sale of a cat without the animal being desexed.
The Draft Plan does not propose to introduce registration for pet cats because microchipping performs the same function and has become widely accepted and effective.
The success of many of these provisions will be threatened if the government forces councils to take on a regulatory role, especially to enforce cat containment.
In this regard, the TCT has recommended that legislation provide for enforcement powers but that councils be allowed to choose whether to apply these powers or not. This is discussed further in the aforementioned article, ‘The case for compulsory cat containment’.
The TCT strongly supports the proposed legislative changes but is concerned that many of the measures may not have the support of cat owners or the Legislative Council, in particular the proposal for compulsory containment of pet cats. The state government has not been very active in attempting to convince the Tasmanian public to support these changes and groups such as the TCT and Hobart Cat Centre have been left to do much of the work. We have put forward a range of suggestions that might increase the chances of the proposed changes being supported.
The other major concern we have with the Draft Plan is that it fails to commit the state government to controlling feral and stray cats on land it manages or guaranteeing support for community-based programs to control feral cats on private land. We understand that the government is likely to provide significant resources in the 2017–18 State Budget to support such programs and encourage responsible cat ownership. This is a positive move butis unlikely to provide sufficient funding to run control programs on public land. The community is entitled to expect some commitment, in the final plan, to the control of feral and stray cats in key areas in the 48% of the state managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service.
The Draft Plan is very strong in identifying the need for more research in key areas, including:
- improving understanding of the interactions between feral and stray cats and native carnivores and other introduced species
- developing and using monitoring strategies to ensure that the impacts of feral cats are clearly understood
- improving understanding of the role that feral and stray cats play in the transmission of disease to stock and native animals
- developing and trial of alternative lethal control methods for feral and stray cats.
It seems likely that, in coming years, farmers in Australia will have access to vaccines to control the spread and impacts of toxoplasmosis and sarcocystis in sheep flocks. These are yet to be trialled in Tasmania and their effectiveness will depend upon the willingness of farmers to use and pay for vaccines. However, the Draft Plan fails to commit the state government to funding trials of vaccines when they are available.
In related news, the TCT has received $8000 from Natural Resource Management South for a cat confinement education project, including for the production of a series of short, high-quality videos.
Article by Peter McGlone - TCT Director