Councillor raises curfew concern

Pet cats have been found to be killing 80 million native birds in Australia annually.

A councillor has called for understanding and moderation as local cat owners adjust to living with Mount Alexander Shire Council’s new cat curfew mandate.

The new requirements mean all cats within the municipality must be securely confined to their owners’ premises at all times.

The restrictions came into effect on December 22 after the council unanimously voted in favour of adopting its new Domestic Animal Management Plan 2022-25.

Speaking at the council’s final meeting for 2021, Cr Rosie Annear said that while she understood the damage cats could inflict on native wildlife, she was aware that the new curfew provisions were a cause of consternation for many local cat owners.

“I understand they do kill a lot of native animals and I am supportive of taking cats inside at night,” said Cr Annear, herself a cat owner.

She called for kindness and understanding to be extended to the shire’s cat owners as they adapted to the requirements of the new local local laws around keeping their cats confined to their own properties 24/7, believing it would “take some time” for them and their pets to adapt to the requirements.

“The people I have spoken to are quite distressed,” Cr Annear said.

But Cr Christine Henderson noted that “a good 60 per cent” of the 450-plus people who had provided public feedback ahead of the new plan’s adoption, favoured the cat curfew.

“This is serious stuff,” Cr Henderson said, describing herself as someone “who is not all that keen on cats”.

“I’m wondering about compliance and implementation.”

Responding to Cr Henderson’s questions on that front, the council’s director of infrastructure and development Michael Annear said the council was taking a preemptive stance.

“Our first step is to create awareness on how cat owners can align with the requirements,” he said.

Beyond that, cat owners whose moggies are caught in breach of the confinement regulations can initially expect follow-up discussion around assisting them to comply, Mr Annear told the meeting.

While the positive psychological benefits of cat ownership are known and documented, last year’s parliamentary inquiry into the problem of feral and pet cats in Australia confirmed the issue was of national significance with pet cats alone found to be killing 80 million native birds in Australia annually.

The final report to the federal parliament found that cats were killing a staggering 1.7 billion native animals each year, played a major role in most of Australia’s 34 mammal extinctions and continued to pose an extinction threat to at least another 120 species.