Animal Welfare (population controls) Bill
The Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich MP, has today introduced a bill to NSW Parliament that seeks to remove the legal impediments to carefully managed “trap-neuter-return” (TNR) programs.
TNR has been widely implemented overseas as a mechanism to control population growth particularly among stray cats. This bill proposes that TNR programs be required to have a sponsoring agency that would keep a register of programs and report on them. Only the head of the Agency that administers the National Parks and Wildlife Act could sponsor a program in a reserve or national park. The bill is a considered approach to a complex issue and we support it.
Cat Protection’s expertise is in the best-practice care and rehoming of domestic cats. While we rehome many cats and kittens who have been stray/street cats, we do not do TNR.
Our support for the bill is informed by veterinary science. The International Society Feline Medicine (ISFM) has expertise in feline medicine and they have studied the complexities of homelessness in cats. The ISFM guidelines on the population management and welfare of unowned domestic cats acknowledge the wide range of situations where population control may be required and finds that prevention of reproduction by ‘neutering’ (desexing) is critical in managing all cat populations. The guidelines state that TNR programs where whole colonies of feral, street or community cats are managed through planned neutering and rapid return to their territory is a well proven method.
The guidelines also point out that humanely administered euthanasia is a legitimate welfare option, in particular for cats experiencing sustained suffering, whether physical or psychological.
For pet cats, neutering is equally important to avoid the welfare problems associated with unwanted kittens. According to the guidelines, too few pet cats around the world are neutered and efforts need to be made to improve this. Ideally, cats should be neutered around 4 months of age (not the ‘traditional’ 6 months old); and neutering can be performed safely from as early as 6 weeks of age.
Cat Protection supports early-age desexing and efforts to improve the welfare of homeless cats. We are not directly involved in any TNR programs but are aware that these can be very successful, for example Campus Cats. Therefore, we support the Member for Sydney’s bill to allow the practice of TNR in certain circumstances.
We also look forward to the feline welfare initiative of a reduced registration age of four months for cats, which the NSW Government announced it would introduce in response to the recommendations of the Companion Animals Taskforce.
Cat Protection’s focus will continue to be on finding loving, permanent homes for homeless cats and kittens, and providing a range of discounted desexing programs, education and information initiatives that promote feline welfare, health and happiness … because every cat deserves a loving and responsible home!