Is it Council vs Cat Lovers?

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

The Gawler Council’s Draft Animal Management Plan has raised hackles, hair and eyebrows with its proposal to dramatically increase the Council’s power to destroy cats found roaming.

Town of Gawler Council Building Cnr Lyndoch Rd and High Street Gawler
The Town of Gawler has raised the ire of cat lovers with their most recent proposal to control roaming cats

As we noted in the latest edition of The Tail Wag Newspawper, the previous Animal Management Plan, due to expire this year, tasked Council to

“Investigate the implementation of a Cat By-law including potential cat exclusion zones adjoining wildlife areas and make recommendation to Council”

Now, while this is a highly emotive subject, it is a discussion we must have.

We know the damage that cats can do to the Australian environment, the devastating effects they can have on native species, particularly small marsupials and birds, and we know that we have to take steps to reduce cats’ impact on our native fauna.

Tabby cat crouches low in the green grass, with its eyes fixed on where it is about to pounce
We know the damage hunting house cats can do to the environment, but we need a balance

But cats are our family, our companions, our friends, and we have to balance the needs of the environment with the responsibility we have to our companion animals.

Over recent years there have been a range of government and NGO led initiatives looking to find a balance between the management of companion and native animals.

The Dog and Cat Management Board has been running the GoodCat initiative encouraging responsible cat ownership, the SA Government began the two-year mandatory desexing and microchipping trial, and the number of indoor cats vs outdoor cats is increasing across the country.

With the Gawler Council now proposing that ‘authorised’ Council staff be given the authority to “lawfully dispose of, destroy or injure” any detained cat if not claimed within 72 hours, it is legitimate to ask if this is a step too far.

Given that this proposal extends not just to feral cats, but also to microchipped and desexed household pets, it is raising the ire of the local cat-owner community.

Headshot of a wide-eyed grey and white kitten
A danger to native animals, they're also our pets and companions

People are concerned that their friends and companions may be destroyed if they stray, even if they have complied with all the laws and regulations.

So, where’s the balance? Where can we find a compromise between residents’ rights to keep a cat as a pet and the responsibility of us all to protect our native fauna.

Like virtually all vets across the state, Gawler Veterinary Services is committed to reducing the numbers of stray, feral and unowned cats in a humane manner.

However, destroying owned, desexed and microchipped companion animals and pets does little to reduce the feral population.

With the Council now facing a backlash from their initial proposal, perhaps it would be wise to revisit the consultation phase, listen to the opinions of pet owners, veterinarians

and other experts to find less confronting ways of controlling the impact of cats on the environment.

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