By Kate Taylor
The good people of Moorabool are being asked by Council to make a decision on a potentially purr-y little problem.
The results from a council cat curfew feasibility study are in and the issue is once again going out for further community consultation for introduction or not.
Getting the councillors to agree on the curfew details was like… herding wild cats.
East Ward Councillor Jarrod Bingham argued at the 4 March council meeting that a cat curfew would help conservation efforts.
“Cats are responsible for wildlife going extinct,” Cr Bingham said.
He also said compliance could be community-managed, with residents trapping problem cats.
“If there is a problem cat, residents would have the ability to get a cat cage from council and trap it,” Cr Bingham said.
The report noted if a curfew is introduced, council would need to respond to added complaints and invest in a larger cattery impound to meet current and future demand.
“Budget implications have been considered which may include the purchase of additional cat traps and an increase in vet fees due to the potential increase in cat impound numbers.
“These costs may be offset somewhat by increased registration numbers and infringement revenue however on discussion with other Councils it seems many cats that are trapped are not reclaimed (not microchipped or registered), and as such homes need to be found for these animals through adoption programs and local refuges.”
The majority of Moorabool’s neighbouring Councils currently do not have a cat curfew in place with the exception of Ballarat City Council, which currently has one in place and Macedon Ranges Shire who will be commencing a cat curfew on 1 July 2020.
Consideration was also given as to whether councillors would prefer the introduction of a 24-hour curfew or a specifically timed curfew such as 6pm to 6am, and would it apply for the entire shire.
Central Ward Councillor Paul Tatchell objected to the motion, saying the cost of compliance would be prohibitive and the cost of compliance officers working at night, and especially given council already struggles with compliance enforcement without adding more to the workload.
“We’ve seen in cities the cat curfew working well in concentrated areas, it’s easy to manage and they have the capacity for compliance… why run this risk now when we cannot manage what we already have. We need to get all other compliance under control first, we don’t need to be putting out any more thought bubbles. I’m not against it in principle, but it would be introducing a very difficult thing to manage in this shire,” Cr Tatchell said.
East Ward Councillor Tom Sullivan supported the motion as the next step in the process.
“My take is, this is just going out for further community consultation with all the information at hand,” Cr Sullivan said.
Councillors voted to engage in more community consultation with residents on a potential cat curfew, with Councillors Paul Tatchell and Tonia Dudzik voting against it.
CATS – lock-up or roam free?
If a cat curfew comes into force, a cat owner found to not be complying with the requirements would be guilty of an offence and liable to pay a $165 penalty for a first offence, increasing to $495 for any subsequent offences.
A report noted there is considerable evidence that cats are a major threat to native wildlife and are at significant danger at night due to traffic.
“Contrary to popular belief, cats do not have to roam. Providing their basic needs are met, cats can enjoy longer and healthier lives when safely contained to a property,” the report reads.
Last year a council survey found of the people who responded, over 41 per cent were cat owners and of these, 74 per cent currently allow their cats outside. The majority of respondents, 78 per cent, were in favour of a cat curfew and 64 per cent of those were in favour of a 24-hour curfew.
However, 75 per cent of these cat owners said they would be unlikely to comply with a 24-hour curfew and 39 per cent a night-time curfew.
Those who responded supported a curfew principally to protect native wildlife.
“The results show there is considerable desire for a cat curfew however cat owners are unlikely to comply with it; especially a 24-hour curfew.”