Page 221 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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harm to native wildlife, including preying on the diverse and colourful birdlife and also lizards, which are such a great feature of Canberra’s natural environment. Roaming cats are also more likely to get injured or sick, whether from rumbles with other animals or road traffic or pests and diseases. International research suggests that the average life span of outdoor cats can be as little as five years, compared with 10 to 15 years for cats which exclusively live indoors. So we believe it is time for a new approach which better balances the wellbeing of our feline friends with that of native animals.

Under this bill, “premises” means a completely or partially enclosed space from which a cat cannot escape. This includes a building or part of a building, a backyard or courtyard, or a cat cage. There are lots of innovative cat containment solutions which still give pet cats an opportunity to experience the outdoors, like backyard cat runs and balcony netting that keeps cats and wildlife separate. The key point is that we want to reduce the number of cats roaming Canberra’s streets without accompaniment or supervision, where they may do harm to themselves or other living creatures.

In parallel with requiring all cats born after 1 July 2022 to be fully contained, we will maintain the existing declared cat containment areas and continue to declare all new suburbs in Canberra cat containment areas, in line with the ACT cat plan. This means that cats are not allowed to roam in these areas, regardless of when they were born.

However, this bill clarifies that cats may be walked on a lead or in a harness in declared cat containment areas, as long as they are directly under their owner’s control. Not all cats are happy to be walked on a lead, but some are, and so the amendments in this bill will ensure owners have that option to promote the health and wellbeing of their cats.

We know from the Canberra pet census that just over half of all cat owners already contain their cats to their home at all times. Many more do so much of the time because they recognise that it is better for their pet’s health. We want to build on this great example of responsible pet ownership, so we will be encouraging Canberrans to voluntarily keep their cats contained even if they were born before 1 July 2022.

As with registration, we will be taking an educative approach to compliance to start with as Canberrans adjust to these new rules. But in the future, there will be fines for people who let their cats roam when they should be contained. Annual registration will make it easier to know who cats belong to and whether or not they are in the grandfathered category.

We recognise that there are some models of stray cat management currently used in the ACT which are not consistent with this city-wide containment approach. Local animal rescue groups do great work through trap, de-sex and adopt programs which seek to re-home stray cats. The ACT cat plan is clear that this is the government’s preferred approach to managing semi-owned or unowned cats.

Since the publication of the cat plan, we have been having ongoing discussions with local animal welfare groups about how they may be able to adapt their operating

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