Source: ABC News (Extract)
Posted: July 26, 2022

A New South Wales council wants to be given powers to enforce cat curfews, as wildlife experts plead for urgent action to stop the pets killing native animals.

Research has found each domestic cat in Australia can kill about 75 native animals each year, with cat curfews touted as a way of reducing that mortality rate.

In some states, local councils are given the power to implement those curfews. This month, the Australian Capital Territory began a district-wide curfew for cats bought after July 1.

But New South Wales councils cannot enforce curfews, as part of the Companion Animals Act.

In the state’s south, Wagga Wagga deputy mayor Jenny McKinnon called on the state government to give more power to local councils to enforce curfews.

She said right now, the council’s only option was to encourage responsible pet ownership.

“They can be a nuisance issue for neighbours who are impacted by roaming cats, in addition to the numbers of native fauna that are lost to cat hunting.”

She said the NSW government needed to make statewide laws for consistency.

“If we were able to implement something locally in Wagga, people moving here from other parts of the state might not understand it’s a different rule here,” she said.

Confinement encouraged

The New South Wales government said it was committed to promoting responsible pet ownership, and encouraged councils and their communities to “work together” to address issues caused by cats.

It pointed to a program run in partnership with the RSPCA, which works with some local councils to encourage owners to keep their cats inside and reduce cat predation of wildlife.

RSPCA project officer Silvina Tolli said every area’s needs were different.

“We have developed a project for each of the councils, because some are going to focus a lot on desexing because that’s a way to reduce the number of cats,” she said.

“And in others, we’re focusing on incentives to keep cats inside, like helping them to build enclosures.

Cats drive extinctions

Wildlife experts say better cat containment is urgently needed, with feral and domestic cats continuing to wreak havoc on native wildlife.

Honorary Australian National University professor Sarah Legge said Australia had the worst mammal extinction record of any country in the last 250 years.

“Of the 33 mammals that have gone extinct, in about two thirds of those cases, cats have been the primary reason for that extinction,” she said.

She said curfews were the main tool available to help native wildlife, but rather than each council imposing their own rules, a nationwide curfew would work best.

A federal parliamentary inquiry last year suggested the Commonwealth begin to enforce local cat curfews as a way of reducing the animals’ environmental impact.

But the then-Coalition government rejected the suggestion of curfews, saying containment programs were more effective.