Custody for cats breaching curfew
More than 170 wandering cats and kittens have been “taken into custody” by Baw Baw Shire this year.
But many others have been returned to owners without being impounded.
As part of a revised Local Law adopted by council in 2016 a cat curfew was introduced that requires the pets to be kept within their owners’ properties at all times.
The Gazette has received complaints about the curfew from several owners but has also heard from others concerned about the prevalence of stray cats and problems they can cause.
Planning and development director Yasmin Woods said council had adopted an attitude of educating cat owners to “do the right thing by their pets and their neighbours” rather than a heavy-handed approach.
Under the Local Law fines of $81 can be imposed on owners that allow their cats to roam but has been rarely used.
Owners of cats that can be identified, usually through their microchips, are contacted by the shire’s compliance team as part of the education process.
Ms Woods said many of the cats impounded this year were not registered and did not have any identification tags but the shire worked to try to give them “a second chance” through its pets adoption program.
She said complaints to the shire about roaming cats mainly related to the nuisance they cause, concern for wildlife and even the safety and well being of the cats themselves.
“The more time a cat spends at home the less risk there is of it being injured or killed by vehicles, injuring or being injured in fights, killing wildlife and, if not desexed, getting pregnant”.
Wandering cats are also vulnerable to contracting or spreading diseases such as cat ‘flu and feline AIDS, Ms Woods said.
People can contain their cats by keeping them indoors, in a cat enclosure or by installing cat proof fencing.
Ms Woods said a cat kept safely at home can live four times longer than those that roam and pointed to council’s website and customer service centres for information about responsible pet ownership and how to confine cats.
According to the RSPCA’s website councils in Victoria have power under the Domestic Animals Act to make local laws prohibiting or regulating cats in specified areas but a curfew is not mandatory.
However, where there were curfews cats should be on a leash or in an enclosed area when not indoors.
The RSPCA says there have not been any formal reports of the success or failure of containment regulations but added there have been some studies indicating that cats kept indoors or confined within enclosures have more health and behaviour problems than freeroaming cats.