Balancing the joys and health benefits of pet cat ownership with the protection of native wildlife is a key challenge for cat management. Containing domestic cats within an owners’ house and yard is essential to achieving this balance, and offers many important health and welfare benefits to cats. Encouraging more cat-owners to keep their cats within their property requires an understanding of what motivates them to prevent their cats from roaming.Balancing the joys and health benefits of pet cat ownership with the protection of native wildlife is a key challenge for cat management. Containing domestic cats within an owners’ house and yard is essential to achieving this balance, and offers many important health and welfare benefits to cats. Encouraging more cat-owners to keep their cats within their property requires an understanding of what motivates them to prevent their cats from roaming.
The first meeting of the Tasmanian Cat Management Reference Group was held on 19 June 2015. The reference group was established by the Minister for Primary Industries, Jeremy Rockliff, and includes representatives from the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, RSPCA, Hobart Cat Centre, Australian Veterinary Association, Cat Association of Tasmania, Landcare Tasmania, Local Government Association of Tasmania, NRM North, Tasmanian Conservation Trust and the University of Tasmania.
When domestic cats are not adequately regulated, the keeping or accumulation (through uncontrolled breeding) of a large number of cats at a premise) is more likely to occur. This can create health and welfare problems for the occupants of the house, the cats and the local community. It can also have a significant detrimental impact on local wildlife (through predation and the spread of disease).
Bronwyn Fancourt has spent four years researching the causes of the decline of eastern quoll in Tasmania. The following is a brief summary of the extremely enlightening presentation she gave to the Bruny Island community recently.
Practitioners from a range of disciplines and countries spoke about emerging threats and new technologies being developed and applied in the field of vertebrate pest management. Pest species and their associated management challenges discussed at the conference ranged from old foes including wild dogs, feral horses, feral cats, camels, goats, foxes, Indian mynas, starlings, pigs, deer, rabbits, carp, rats, wallabies and possums to new arrivals such as smooth newts in Victoria and black-spined toads.
The Cat Management Act 2009 and Cat Management Regulations 2012 commenced in July 2012 as Tasmania’s first ever legislation for the control and management of cats. About a year after the legislation commenced the Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage Brian Wightman announced that his department would be assessing the effectiveness of the legislation through a formal review.
In the last Tasmanian Conservationist we reported that the eastern quoll, Dasyurus viverrinus, has been nominated for inclusion in the Tasmanian threatened species list under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Act 1995. The quoll was nominated by the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) established under the Act, rather than as a public nomination, although much of the scientific data was provided by Bronwyn Fancourt, who has been studying the quoll as part of her Honours and now PhD projects at the University of Tasmania. The SAC nominated the quoll for inclusion as endangered on the basis that it meets the criterion of ‘a population decline of at least 50 percent over the last ten years’. As can be seen in Figure 1, it is clear that the population of eastern quolls has declined significantly in the last ten years.
On 17 May 2012 the state budget was delivered by the Premier and Treasurer, Lara Giddings, and there was a small but important surprise for those of us who had been waiting nearly three years for the Cat Management Act to be enacted (it was passed by the state parliament in November 2009 but has not yet commenced). In March this year, the Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, had finally confirmed that the act would commence on 1 July 2012 so some budget allocation was expected.
During the 2010 state election the TCT and Tasmanian Land Conservancy secured the commitment of all three political parties to establish a Private Land Conservation Fund. The Labor Party could only give in-principle support and, not surprisingly, the fund received no funding in the State Budget. Since the election we have commenced discussions with the State Government to establish the institution to run the fund, with a view to seeking funding from next year’s budget.
The Tasmanian Cat Management Act 2009 received royal assent on 19 December 2009 and is expected to commence in July 2010.This is perhaps Australia’s best cat control legislation, empowering those who want to control cats, and helping to reduce the number of unwanted and abandoned cats, whilst putting in place safeguards to protect peoples’ much-loved pet cats.