Calls to protect endangered wildlife by updating cat laws

Left to right: Bunbury Vet Clinic senior veterinarian Braden Collins, an injured, baby Western ringtail possum and a house cat with injured wildlife.
Left to right: Bunbury Vet Clinic senior veterinarian Braden Collins, an injured, baby Western ringtail possum and a house cat with injured wildlife.

THERE are calls for the City of Bunbury to update its local cat laws to protect wildlife.

Withers resident Jodi Larke in May called for changes that reflect laws implemented in Manjimup earlier this year.

Manjimup now requires Shire officers to investigate every complaint and cats are no longer able to roam on a property unless the property owner gives the cat owner permission or they face a $200 fine.

The Shire of Manjimup also recommends that cat owners confine their cat.

Ms Larke said she had recently seen a critically endangered baby Western ringtail possum killed by a "nuisance" cat in her suburb.

Ms Larke said she had handed the cat in to rangers multiple times.

"This cat is constantly on my property, spraying and bothering a number of neighbours by yowling and attacking other cats at night," Ms Larke said.

"It is registered and the rangers told me they have spoken to the owner a number of times but nothing is ever done. All the rangers can do is hand the cat back to the owner and give them education."

The City of Bunbury's local cat laws were last amended in 2019.

While the local laws contain a number of prohibited cat areas and state an owner can not allow a cat to be or create a nuisance, it is up to individuals to collect evidence in the form of a 'nuisance activity log', for any action to be taken.

"Part of being a responsible pet owner is you need to be responsible for the actions of your pet, not only are roaming cats a danger to wildlife but there is also a significant impact on the cat's health by being able to roam."

Bunbury Vet Clinic senior veterinarian Braden Collins

Ms Larke argued it was a big ask of complaining residents to take the time to fill out such a log, which requires 10 consecutive days of observation and recording of the nuisance cat's activities.

City of Bunbury safety and emergency management team leader Mark Allies confirmed it was the responsibility of acomplainant to complete a nuisance log in order to assist rangers in management.

When asked how many times were logs showing the same cat was causing a nuisance, Mr Allies said it was difficult to find these statistics.

"Cats are predominantly nocturnal animals so the behaviours tend to occur when we are all asleep, but cats also tend not to roam too far so often it is the same cat causing a nuisance at a particular property," Mr Allies said.

"Once a pattern of behaviour has been established in the log, the ranger will attempt to locate the owner and the City can start to look at possible courses of action to stop the nuisance behaviour."

It is estimated that each domestic cat kills 110 animals per year on average.

Bunbury Vet Clinic senior veterinarian Braden Collins said cats were "very effective killers" and each domestic cat kills about 110 animals per year on average.

"...it is very rare we can save them," Dr Collins said.

Ms Larke said it was "bizarre" that dog owners were fined if their pet killed animals, yet cat owners seemed to get away with it.

"Shortly after we moved into our Withers property a dog broke in to our chicken pen and killed all our chickens," Ms Larke said.

"The ranger fined the owner $400 who was very remorseful and apologised.

"I just don't understand. You can't let dogs roam around the neighbourhood and kill things and cause problems, so why do we let cats? Why would rangers fine for chickens but nothing for native ringtail possums that are endangered?"

Dr Collins agreed local laws should require cats to be contained to their property and said the "historical belief" that cats needed to roam was not true.

"Part of being a responsible pet owner is you need to be responsible for the actions of your pet, not only are roaming cats a danger to wildlife but there is also a significant impact on the cat's health by being able to roam.

"We expect dogs to be adequately contained so if there is at least a requirement to keep cats confined to the property, it will allow council rangers to act on problem cats, ensure they are microchipped and sterilised as required and hopefully there will be a shift in attitudes towards understanding what cats can live healthier, happier lives if they and the wildlife are kept safe."

According to Mr Allies, the City of Bunbury is currently waiting for the state government to complete its review of the Cat Act 2011 before it makes any substantial changes to its own local laws.