Page 870 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 6 April 2022

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cat allergy, we had two cats, but both met unfortunate ends—both hit by cars. In my particular circumstance cat containment would have saved their lives. I also had the very unusual experience of the next-door neighbour’s cat being incredibly territorial; it would come through our cat flap in the middle of the night and attack my cat. Again, this is another instance where cat containment would have been very helpful.

I also recognise the extensive community engagement conducted as part of the ACT Cat Plan, which has informed the amendments in this bill. I thank the more than 4,000 people and organisations who have provided input, and I am proud to live in a city where there is generally agreement to taking proactive action for the sake of our domestic and native animals and our beautiful environment.

It is heartening to see so many Canberrans understand the need to balance our love of domestic animals and the many benefits they bring us with our passion for protecting the biodiversity of our community. Canberrans understand the value of annual cat registration and expanded cat containment. They understand that, for cat lovers and cat-free households alike, everyone can benefit from domestic cats being registered and managed responsibly.

The new annual cat registration requirements being considered today will support pet owners in the unfortunate event that a pet becomes lost, as accurate contact details can be used to reunite cats with their families far more effectively than what microchipping alone can provide. This also has a direct benefit for non-cat households.

Gradually, what we can expect to see under the annual cat registration is more tangible actions taken on roaming and nuisance cats. More cat owners will be engaged in their responsibilities through digital updates, and government will be in contact with them in the event that their cat is caught up in trouble.

Responsible pet ownership is encouraged by this bill, and of particular interest to the community is the introduction of cat containment for all cats born from 1 July 2022. This is, of course, in addition to continuing our current policy of declaring newly developed suburbs as full cat containment suburbs.

By confining cats to the household, including to completely or partially enclosed space on the owner’s premises, owners will have the peace of mind that their cat will not be roaming Canberra’s streets unsupervised. This is essential, as it reduces the risk of harm not only to our native wildlife but also to the cat itself.

For those whose cats love to roam and can handle a busy street, cat owners will now have the option of walking their cat on a harness and lead in any Canberra suburb, including in declared containment areas. This is consistent with the ACT Cat Plan and the current policy intent of cat containment areas, and the change to the legislation will be welcomed by many cat owners whose cats are trained to walk on a lead.

I also acknowledge that pet census data confirmed that more than half of Canberra cat owners always contain their cats to the home, recognising the benefit of their cat’s health and potentially their life span. I am confident that, under this bill, this proportion of cats already contained will continue to increase.

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