Page 4297 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005

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The Greens support the introduction of compulsory registration of cats. This need not be a burden on the ACT government and need not be as bureaucratic as the dog registration system. Instead of having a system requiring annual renewal, there could be lifetime registration through the microchipping system. The RSPCA in the ACT already offers a cost price microchipping service to the Canberra community. It would be a simple measure to extend that service to ensure that all cats in the ACT are able to have desexing information on their microchip record. Rather than this becoming another cost borne by government, the RSPCA could continue to charge people for the once-off cost of the microchip, which would serve as a lifetime registration and also help the RSPCA maintain a stream of income, which it so badly needs.

A centralised database system would allow all users of the microchip databases to access this information, including domestic animal services, vets and the RSPCA. At present there are a number of private companies running the databases in different states and not everyone has access to all of these. For example, the RSPCA has access to information on animals that were microchipped in the ACT but to only some of the databases that operate in New South Wales. This is something that the government can work to improve.

Another issue that would be served by this type of registration is identification of the number of cats owned by individual households. At present there are no restrictions on the number of animals allowed on any one premise. Many of the impacts of cat ownership on neighbours come from multiple cat ownership in one premise. The Greens would like to see a restriction on the number of cats allowed per household, with exceptions being able to be made, such as breeding permits, for special circumstances.

I am aware of one household where a person acquiring a female cat was told that the cat must be desexed but never got round to desexing it and a year or two later complaints from neighbours led to somebody, probably somebody from the government, having to come in and capture a number of cats and destroy them. I was very sad to see that a couple of years later that person acquired another cat and the same problem ensued. It is true that we should not have to be a nanny state and be responsible for what everyone does in relation to animals, but some of these animals have consequences that have a community cost and, consequently, I do believe that the government does have that responsibility. I say that in response to the points raised by Mr Pratt.

One concern that the Greens have is to ensure that there are sufficient funds in the budget to run the education campaign necessary to go with the introduction of this bill. The first stage of education will need to explain the government objectives of declaring a cat curfew in Forde and Bonner and how to identify the threatened species in the area. The second stage will need to explain the legislative changes about identification to the public and/or cat owners and to future residents of the suburbs.

These measures are the first steps in forging the way with innovative solutions, bringing in better cat management techniques in the ACT. The Greens look forward to more work being done on issues such as cat registration and further cat containment and curfews, especially in areas adjacent to nature reserves. Again, time will tell whether cat containment is the answer. We look forward to the outcomes of the evaluation, which will be crucial to future cat management concepts for future developments, especially for

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