Page 869 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 6 April 2022

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semi-owned and unowned domestic cats. This is important to minimise indiscriminate breeding and wildlife predation. It is particularly important when it comes to managing colonies of stray cats, particularly in industrial areas.

Canberra, as the bush capital, has suburbs filled with birds and wildlife, which is one of the joys of this city. Wildlife is not contained to nature reserves or the suburbs which border them, but is found throughout the city. Our industrial areas in Fyshwick are in close proximity to Jerrabomberra Wetlands, a one-of-a-kind ecosystem in the heart of Canberra.

This waterbird wonderland hosts a diverse panorama of animal life, including over 170 different bird species. Unowned cats are a considerable and urgent problem and, simply put, we cannot just allow a high density of street cats to roam and hunt in proximity to this wetland. Similarly, the areas of Mitchell and Hume are close to grasslands that are home to endangered native species, including legless lizards and earless dragons.

The bottom line is that cats that are not responsibly owned are a risk to native wildlife. The adoption and rehoming of desexed cats, rather than their release, is essential to minimising wildlife predation, as well as preventing the welfare issues for semi-owned and unowned cats. Importantly, I do not think that this presents an insurmountable problem that we cannot solve. We do not need to be pitting cat welfare against the environment. We can achieve both. In fact, these are the two pillars that are at the heart of the cat plan.

As stated in the cat plan, the ACT government is committed to working with animal care and rescue organisations to manage semi-owned and unowned cats and helping them transition to trap, desex and adopt activities. These conversations are happening right now. Given these organisations’ great success to date in rehoming the vast majority of cats that they currently care for—at least 90 per cent—I am really confident that the ACT government and organisations can find solutions that align with the actions of the cat plan and build on the great work that these organisations have done to date.

This bill represents a major step forward in reducing the impacts of cats on native wildlife and takes us one step closer to making Canberra an urban biodiversity sanctuary. I would like to finally give acknowledgement that these great outcomes are built on the foundations of hard work by people that have come before me, particularly former Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur, who campaigned for cat containment for more than a decade.

DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (4.48): I am very pleased to stand here today in support of Minister Steel and the Domestic Animals Legislation Amendment Bill. This bill helps to deliver on the ACT government’s Cat Plan 2021-31 by supporting responsible pet ownership and balancing the wellbeing of cats with the management of their impact on Canberra’s environment.

I recognise the importance of cats as companion animals and the valuable place they hold in the families and homes of many Canberrans. Until my youngest developed a

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