The problem posed by feral cats and irresponsible cat owners is a hotly contested debate in Australia. On the one hand, there are those who say that the threat to Australia's indigenous wildlife posed by cats is exaggerated. Others say that feral cats and uncontrolled cats pose an increasing danger to native species and should be aggressively eliminated. The responsible cat ownership laws recently passed in WA may prove to be a solution all Australians can live with.
What the Responsible Cat Ownership Laws Passed in WA Say
In a media statement released by the government of Western Australia, Responsible Cat Ownership Laws Passed
, Local Minister John Castrilli outlines the recent WA legislation regarding cat ownership. There are three important aspects to this legislation:
- All cats must be registered with local councils: This aspect of the law gives State and local government the power to deal with irresponsible cat owners.
- Cats must be sterilised unless used for breeding: Since cats can breed up to 4 times a year and produce an average of 4 kittens per litter, sterilisation can go a long way towards reducing the numbers of abandoned and feral cats.
- All domestic cats must be microchipped: This is to ensure that lost cats can be returned to their owners.
Mr. Castrilli emphasises that 93% of cat owners in Western Australia are responsible and sterilise their cats, but with the passage of these laws, it is hoped that the numbers of stray, feral and lost cats that have to be euthanised each year will be drastically reduced. In order to help cat owners adjust to the new laws, they are being phased in from November 1 2012 and cat owners in WA have until the 1st of November, 2013 to register, microchip and sterilise their cats.
Why the Cat Ownership Laws are Considered Necessary
Both sides of the responsible cat ownership controversy have arguments for their position. While some studies suggest that cats are responsible for the death of millions of native animals, others argue that they have killed more introduced species, such as rabbits, than native wildlife and that since most cat owners are responsible, there is no need for legislation. However, even many of those who fiercely argue against the culling of feral cats and euthanisation of abandoned cats point out that the most effective way to humanely limit the numbers of unwanted cats is to control their breeding through sterilisation.
While dogs have been regulated in Western Australia since 1976, these are the first responsible cat ownership laws to be passed in WA . It is certain to remain a controversial issue and all Australians will be watching closely to see how effective the legislation is in reducing the numbers of lost, abandoned and feral cats in WA.