Page 867 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 6 April 2022
Finally, I would like to thank Jennifer from Minister Steel’s office for the briefing and her follow-up responses to my queries. For the reasons I have talked about, the Canberra Liberals will be supporting this bill today.
MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (4.38): The purpose of the bill is to introduce a requirement for newly acquired cats to be contained to the premises for their lifetime and for all cats to be registered annually in the ACT. Cat owners will be reminded annually to register their cats and that registration will be transferred to any new owner of the animal. It will be an offence to keep an unregistered cat in certain circumstances.
The minister will be able to declare an area cat containment if the minister is satisfied that cats are a threat to native flora or fauna in the area or for the welfare of the cats, if it is appropriate to do so. It will be an offence if a cat is not confined to a premise in certain circumstances. Cats will be able to leave their premises if they are on a harness and a leash. I have seen a lot of people out walking their cats in Belconnen lately. It is not something I would have imagined when I was a kid, but it is actually really delightful to see. I have a staff member who has a really gorgeous deaf and blind cat and she is often out walking her cat. So it is a different way of doing things, but it certainly works.
This is really important because these amendments to the current act help give effect to the ACT Cat Plan for the next 10 years and help ensure more responsible cat ownership here in the ACT. The vision for the next 10 years for the ACT Cat Plan is for all cats in the ACT to be owned, wanted and cared for by responsible owners. This vision is really important, because our cats live longer, healthier, happier lives when they are being taken care of by those responsible owners.
The ACT Cat Plan encourages a trap, neuter, adopt approach for semi-owned and unowned cats and, as animal welfare spokesperson, I love the idea of having people take responsibility for and ownership of those cats. It is the best possible outcome for the cats themselves. It ensures those cats are not left to fend for themselves anymore. Responsible pet ownership is even more important for our environment, for our biodiversity and for the lives of other animals, and Ms Lawder has actually set out a lot of the figures on that.
In 2020 a study was published in Wildlife Research which reviewed data from more than 60 studies on domestic cats. It was funded by the Australian government’s national environmental science program. It suggested that nationally our domestic cats are killing an estimated 230 million native Australian birds, reptiles and mammals every year. That is a huge amount and we simply cannot afford to let our native wildlife go. Pet cats were also found to prey on approximately 150 million introduced animals, mostly rodents.
Cats cannot discriminate between native and non-native species, and containing our cats is the best and kindest possible way to protect those native species, particularly here in the bush capital where our suburbs are surrounded by parks, urban open spaces and nature reserves. One of our responsibilities in taking care of our bushland and taking care of our bush capital is to ensure that we are responsibly taking care of our