Hornsby Shire Council looks to change laws about killing cats
Hornsby Shire Council wants the law changed so they can make their own policies about killing cats. And on 24-25 October at the conference of Local Government NSW, they’re asking other councils to join them.
It is dangerous, wrong, and cruel.
Email your local councillor or mayor and tell them cats deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.
Councillors are elected to represent their communities and they need to hear your voice.
You can let Local Government NSW know your views by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Cat Protection wrote to Hornsby Shire Council in August, when they were planning to debate motions to mandate cat containment and for council to be free to make its own policies on euthanasing “feral” cats. Many residents raised their concerns, particularly in relation to the trapping and killing of pet cats.
Nonetheless, Hornsby Shire persisted with their views on mandatory cat containment and that councils should be able to “euthanise feral cats in accordance with a policy adopted by the relevant council” and have presented these as Motions to the Local Government NSW conference to be held at the Hunter Valley Crowne Plaza from 23 to 25 October 2022.
Feral cats have no dependency on people in any way and thus are most unlikely to live near people. “Feral” is not an appropriate descriptor for a cat based on their friendliness or fearfulness.
A previously-owned and loved cat who has been lost, is sick, hungry and scared can “appear” and “behave” in a manner that is not their usual self … even a healthy, owned and placid pet cat can react with great feistiness in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people. These are the cats who will be called ‘feral’ for the convenience of immediate euthanasia.
Should Hornsby Shire or any other council wish to invest in developing humane approaches to the inevitable conflicts between people and pets (remembering that cats aren’t alone in their capacity to harm wildlife) and the natural environment, there are tangible actions that can be taken now, including working with existing programs such as the Community Cat Program, the RSPCA’s Keeping Cats Safe at Home programs, and The Good Neighbour Project, among other things.
All councils would be aware that a Rehoming Practices Review is underway.
It recommends a definition of feral cats, that notes “feral cats do not receive food from humans directly or indirectly”. It is highly unlikely in a suburban area that a cat is “feral” though they might well be unsocialised. Caught in a trap, frightened, taken to a strange place, even the most domesticated cat can react with fear which could manifest as aggression or simply “shutting down”. A cat needs time to calm down before they can be assessed.
Due to climate change, habitat loss, logging, and the increasing pressure of human housing development, native fauna and flora is threatened like never before.
Hornsby Shire is aware of this, as another of its Motions deals with flora and fauna management plans, and their supporting notes state that “The NSW State of the Environment Report (2021) notes that the pressures affecting the largest number of threatened species in NSW were found to be native vegetation clearing and permanent habitat loss (87%).”
Cats were not responsible for these actions and their awful outcomes. Demonising cats invokes cruelty; it makes cruelty “acceptable” and permissible. Cruelty to animals is proven to be linked to cruelty to people; even people who don’t “like” cats should be deeply disturbed by anything that disinhibits the respectful treatment of non-human animals.
Humane responses to environmental protection are urgently needed. In our opinion, that means governments at all levels working with scientists, wildlife groups, animal welfare groups and local communities to find humane and effective strategies to protect wildlife AND their habitat, including flora.
“Humane” includes protecting humans. Killing a pet cat who had the misfortune to be trapped, responded with extreme fear, and was thus labelled ‘feral’ is not humane. It is not humane to the cat, and it is not humane to the people who loved and cared for that cat. It is simply cruel.
Cat Protection’s vision is that every cat has a loving and responsible home. The sad reality is that they do not but as we strive to achieve our vision, we seek to follow a path that is humane, realistic, and evidence-based.
We have a long history of promoting socially and environmentally responsible cat care. We honour the unique bond between people and cats. Our Good Neighbour Project offers an extensive range of resources to help cat owners balance the health and welfare needs of their cat with wildlife protection and consideration of human neighbours. Resources include materials in community languages, and all are freely accessible https://catprotection.org.au/responsible-cat-ownership/
Currently (and for the past couple of years) Cat Protection is providing financial support to the Community Cats research program led by Emeritus Professor Jacquie Rand – for more information please visit https://petwelfare.org.au/community-cat-programs/
The Community Cats research study will provide the foundation from which to build an evidence-base to evaluate non-lethal cat management programs. In our opinion, this research should be financially and practically supported by governments.
The RSPCA received a $2.5m grant from the NSW Environmental Trust to develop a program on responsible cat ownership, and Hornsby Shire is one of the participating councils. For information on Keeping Cats Safe at Home please visit https://www.rspcansw.org.au/keeping-cats-safe/
The Rehoming Practices Review draft report, includes these relevant recommendations:
The draft recommendations of the Review, based on the evidence presented in this report, are as follows.
1 The NSW Government to establish an ongoing funding arrangement for a community cat program which councils can apply to and could be run in partnership with the RSPCA or a similar experienced body. This would be targeted to councils with the highest cat intakes. Councils would need to show that they can target the areas with the highest problems and to report on outcomes. The expected cost of a program that would reduce cat euthanasia by one third is $2 million per year on average, initially run over a five year period. Councils would benefit financially from this through reduced pound intakes. However, rather than seeking co-funding from councils, this cost saving would allow councils to redirect resources into increasing adoption rates for remaining animals.
2 The NSW Government provide a definition for types of cats, with a model definition below:
- a) Domestic cats, which have some dependence (direct or indirect) on humans, categorised into:
- i) Owned cats — identified with and cared for by a specific person and are directly dependent on humans. They are usually sociable, although sociability varies.
- ii) Semi-owned cats — directly and intentionally fed or provided with some other care by people who do not consider they own them. These cats are of varying sociability, with many socialised to humans, and they may be associated with one or more households.
iii) Unowned cats — receive food from humans indirectly such as from food waste bins. They are indirectly dependent on humans, may have casual and temporary interactions with humans, and are of varying sociability, including some who are unsocialised to humans.
- b) Feral cats, which can be distinguished from domestic cats because they are unowned, unsocialised, have no relationship with or dependence on humans, survive by hunting or scavenging, and live and reproduce in the wild. Feral cats do not receive food from humans directly or indirectly.
- c) Infant cats, which is a cat in the first stage of existence and that is not able to feed and fend for itself or is of such age that keeping it within a pound facility would place the cat’s welfare at risk.
For a copy of the report and to make a submission (submissions close 28 October) visit https://www.olg.nsw.gov.au/councils/responsible-pet-ownership/rehoming-practices-review/
For information on the LGNSW Annual conference visit https://lgnswconference.org.au/