Sunday 30 May 2021

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) residents will have to confine their cats to their homes

The ACT government has plans to confine domestic cat to their homes from July 1, 2022 regardless of the suburban where they live. It's called the ACT Cat Plan 2021-2031. It's a policy which has been developed in consultation with others including environmental groups and cat owners which is designed to "help cats live longer and healthier lives while better protecting native wildlife."

ACT Legislative Assembly
ACT Legislative Assembly. Photo in public domain.

There are already cat containment regulations with respect to 'containment suburbs' in Canberra. Outside of "declared suburbs, cat containment will only apply to new cats, because we understand that existing cats and their owners may not be prepared or used to containment", said ACT Minister for Transport and Silly Services Chris Steel.

The new rules will also allow owners in cat containment suburbs to take their cat for a walk on a lead. This is currently prohibited. At the moment there are 17 cat containment suburbs in the ACT.

The maximum penalty for breaching the new local laws will be AU$1600. Steel said that the ACT is a leader in introducing cat containment. This is certainly correct. I do not know of any other country where these concepts are in place and being expanded. It is certainly part of Australia's desire to protect native species. It comes with a package of procedures including the destruction of feral cats designed to protect, primarily, small Australian native ground dwelling mammals but birds and reptiles too.

There are other plans to encourage responsible cat ownership. They say that there are seven other strategies to be rolled out over the next 10 years, one of which is a compulsory requirement for new cat owners to register their cats in the way that dog owners do currently. And from July 1, 2022 new cat owners will have to pay a fee when they register their cat for the first time. Registration will need to be updated annually. Existing cat owners will also have to register but there will be no fee.

The authorities say that they estimate free roaming cats kill 61,000 native birds, 2000 native mammals and 30,000 native reptiles together with 6000 native frogs annually, on my understanding.

They believe that domestic cats confined to the home can still live happy and contented lives. This is true but there are more demands upon cat owners to ensure that their cats are stimulated for obvious reasons. Confined domestic cats live in an artificial world and there has to be some substitutes to nature within that world to which domestic cats are attuned. They need the sights, sounds stimulation of nature.

I do not believe that the average cat owner will be able to satisfactorily substitute what their cats will be missing once they are confined to the home.

The Conservation Council ACT Region welcomed the plan but said that they could go further and also that they could introduce it sooner. They say that it is wrong to allow one more year of newly-acquired cat be free to roam and hunt.

Australian citizens can have their say online. If you are interested you can read about the government's vision and the ACT Plan 2021-31 by clicking on this link.

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