Page 4296 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005

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undergrowth disturbance, and other domestic animals. Applying the precautionary principle to sensitive areas for all these reasons is imperative and welcomed.

This proposal allows people to own cats in these suburbs. It does not allow the cats to roam free into the surrounding bush but still lets them outside within the confinement of cat runs. This is an innovative solution that can only come about through productive negotiations. This proposed legislation brings in a regime of cat management that is, in effect, a national trial. No other government has come up with a cat run solution to the domestic cat problem and we hope that it will prove successful over the years and be taken on in other jurisdictions. It is especially important that Canberra get it right, given that we are still lucky enough to be the bush capital and we have purposely designed our city to have suburbs adjoining nature reserves, woodlands and grasslands with threatened species. Time will tell whether we got it right and we look forward to an evaluation in two to three years.

The new system of cat containment within runs being introduced into Forde and Bonner is also welcomed by those who care about the health and welfare of cats. Allowing cats to have sunshine and roll around in catnip, yet not roam, will help stop the spread of diseases such as FIV, which is the equivalent of AIDS for cats, as well as prevent cats being hit by cars and getting in fights with other cats. It will also lower the public health risk of cats toileting in children’s play areas and suburban gardens.

The ACT already has quite a large problem with cats living in public places. For instance, around the Australian National University there is a huge cat population. I believe that around the rose gardens and other areas of the Old Parliament House there is quite a significant cat population. The RSPCA has told me that on Mount Ainslie, being very close to a suburban area where people have taken on cats but not taken on the responsibility of owning cats, there is a really huge population of cats. I am sure that is true for other parts of our nature park areas.

Having shared my praises on these amendments, I must also share my concerns with this bill, in that it deals with cats being introduced to these new areas now, but does not look far enough into future cat management issues. It does not deal with the fact that cats have a high breeding rate and that compulsory desexing measures in current legislation have no means of enforcement. One of the differences between the cat and dog desexing systems at present is that when you register your dog the government can then monitor whether the dog is desexed. However, as there is no system of cat registration, what we have now in the ACT is more of an honesty system for cat desexing. I am sure that no member here would support a voluntary cat desexing program for the ACT. However, that is what we have, in effect.

The introduction of compulsory microchipping of cats is the first step towards the ability to monitor cat desexing. As this only applies during the next three years to cats in Forde and Bonner and cats which are sold, the majority of cats will still only be required to have a collar and tag. Compulsory identification by collar and tag is not the same as compulsory registration. Cats can lose their collars and tags. Without registration, it is impossible to know how many cats there are in the ACT, nor how many kittens are born each year. We do know that around 1,500 kittens were delivered to the RSPCA in 2004. Although there is compulsory desexing of cats, unless you have a breeding permit, this cannot be monitored without some form of government registration.

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