The ACT is introducing citywide containment for all new cats from the middleof next year.

Currently, all cats in new Canberra suburbs have to be kept indoors or in catruns at all times.

But under the ACT government’s plan, announced today, all new cats obtained byowners after July 1, 2022 will have to be contained, regardless of whichsuburb they live in.

The ACT Cat Plan 2021-2031, developed in consultation with cat owners,environmental groups and the broader community, states the policy will “helpcats live longer and healthier lives while better protecting native wildlife”.

One of the plan’s first actions is to introduce the citywide containmentrequirements for new cats.

ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel explained that“grandfathering arrangements” would apply for cats owned before July 1 2022,which means that already-owned cats do not need to be contained if theirowners do not live in an existing cat containment suburb.

“Outside of declared suburbs, cat containment will only apply to new cats,because we understand that existing cats and their owners may not be preparedor used to containment,” Mr Steel said.

Part of the new cat containment policy also includes an amendment to allowowners in cat containment suburbs to walk their cats on a lead, which iscurrently prohibited. There are 17 cat containment suburbs in the ACT.

The government says it will educate pet owners to make sure they understandtheir obligations, but the maximum penalty for breaching the laws is $1,600.

“The ACT is a leader in introducing cat containment,” Mr Steel said.

“Some other jurisdictions have cat curfews at particular times of the day toalso help protect the environment.”

Eight strategies to be rolled out over 10 years

Alongside the new rules about cat containment, the plan puts forward sevenother strategies — which the government says will be progressively rolled outover the next 10 years — to encourage responsible cat ownership and reduce theimpact of feral cats.

Among these strategies is a compulsory requirement for new cat owners toregister their cats, in the same way that dogs are now required to beregistered annually in the ACT.

From July 1 2022, new cat owners will have to pay a once-off fee when theyfirst register their cat, and then update their details annually. Existing catowners have to register their cat, but there will be no charge.

“The ACT government wants to minimise the impacts of domestic cats on nativewildlife by reducing the number of feral, unowned and semi-owned cats throughmore de-sexing, improved domestic cat welfare and management practices, betterways to identify lost cats and reunite them with their owners,” Minister forthe Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said.

“Every year, free-roaming but owned Canberra cats are estimated to prey on61,000 native birds, 2,000 native mammals, 30,000 native reptiles and 6,000native frogs.

Michelle Robertson from RSPCA ACT said they were looking forward to “acoordinated approach to cat containment across the territory”.

“We look forward to working with the government to implement the plan toimprove cat welfare and protect native wildlife. We also look forward toworking with the community to increase responsible cat ownership and improvecat and human wellbeing,” she said.

The Conservation Council ACT Region also welcomed the plan, but said the catcontainment policy could go further.

“It is very disappointing that the new measures won’t come into force untilJuly 1, 2022, allowing more than a year of newly-acquired cats to be free toroam and hunt for the duration of their lives,” executive director Helen Oakeysaid.

“Other measures in the plan are welcome, including the requirement for catregistration which will help to identify and return lost cats to their owners.Microchipping and registration of pet cats will also be crucial to ensurecompliance when cat containment is implemented.”

The ACT Cat Plan 2021–31 and the community consultation report is available onthe government’s YourSay website.

Source: ABC News

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