Call for cat curfew

Source: Newcastle Herald

Calls for a cat curfew in the Hunter have been made amid concern about feline killing sprees further depleting native wildlife numbers.

Thousands of birds, lizards, frogs, possums and insects were victims of cats, along with other small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, environment groups say.

NSW was lagging behind Victoria and ACT, where cat curfews had been successful.

National Parks Association of NSW chief executive Kevin Evans advocates for stronger NSW laws, but said councils should be leading the push.

‘‘There’s a long way for NSW to catch up to other states, especially Victoria,’’ Mr Evans said.

In Victoria, councils have the power to prohibit and regulate cats in specified areas where native fauna are under risk of attack.

Lake Macquarie City Council said the NSW Companion Animals Act ‘‘does not give local governments the authority to introduce a curfew on cats’’.

However, the council had imposed covenants on properties in Murrays Beach and Cameron Park [near conservation areas], prohibiting owners from keeping cats.

Cats won’t be allowed in the new Rose Group development at Catherine Hill Bay.

The average domestic cat ‘‘brings home’’ 16 mammals, eight birds and eight reptiles each year, NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service said.

But not all cat-kills are brought to owners’ doorsteps and some moggies are known to kill almost every day.

More than 50,000 domestic cats are estimated to live in the Hunter, not including ferals.

Lake Macquarie council said more than 8000 cats were microchipped and registered in its area.

The council will give $700 to LT Creek Sustainable Neighbourhood Group to create a ‘‘Responsible Cat Care Brochure’’.

The neighbourhood group’s spokeswoman Robyn Charlton said there was increasing concern about cats killing wildlife, particularly with the push for sustainable living.

Ms Charlton said people ‘‘have to take responsibility for their animals’’.

‘‘Every cat should be locked up at night, as soon as dusk comes,’’ Ms Charlton said.

Ms Charlton owns three cats, which she keeps inside or allows outside in a ‘‘cat run’’.

She urged people to microchip and desex cats, adding ‘‘we’re in breeding season for cats now’’.

Mr Evans said stricter rules should be imposed on cat ownership when councils register cats.

‘‘We’d prefer all cats were sterilised and cat breeding be done only by legitimate licensed breeders,’’ he said.

While he conceded cat curfews would be hard to enforce, he said increased awareness could lead to change.

The NSW Environment Department urged people to ‘‘always keep your cat indoors at night’’.

‘‘Night-time is when many small native mammals are active and at risk from cat attacks,’’ it said.

‘‘Putting several bells on a cat’s collar may help to reduce the cat’s ability to hunt.’’

The ACT government’s policy was for cat curfews in new suburbs, but the RSPCA sought to extend that to older suburbs adjoining nature reserves.

The RSPCA said recently Canberra’s cat curfew laws had been so successful they should be introduced across the ACT.

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