Cat curfew decision looms

Max was being offered for re-homing in Greater Dandenong in 2018. 181125_01 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Greater Dandenong Council is investigating a ‘cat curfew’ as it’s plagued by an “over-population” of feral and stray cats.

This would make it illegal for a cat to be found anywhere off its owner’s property. Other councils have imposed curfews either at night or 24-7.

The council is expected to decide on a curfew – after further research – by February.

A drawback is the council’s dismal cat registration rate, which is seen as a barrier to the cat curfew being effective.

Stray cats and dogs and unregistered animals have been identified as major challenges in the council’s draft domestic animal management plan tabled on 27 June.

As of January 2021, there were about 3500 registered cats – but that’s estimated to be only 15 per cent of the cat population in Greater Dandenong.

“Council records clearly indicate that there is an overpopulation of cats and that in the main these are un-owned ‘wild’ animals that can never be domesticated,” a council report said.

In the past four years, cat registrations have increased by 7 per cent.

But complaints about wandering cats have risen 10 per cent since 2017, to more than 600 last year. They make up 46 per cent of complaints to the council’s rangers.

More than half of the trapped cats are euthanized due to their “wild or semi-wild temperaments”.

The council is exploring to have more “semi-owned” cats re-homed, with discount microchipping and registration programs. This sub-group of cats is defined as being reliant on being fed by humans.

They are generally not desexed, are prolific breeders, spreaders of disease and killers of wildlife.

“Further work needs to be done to strengthen community education on confinement of animals and feeding stray animals. The need for a cat curfew also requires consideration.”

Springvale resident Susan Voutier says she’s stopped vegie gardening due to being plagued by stray cats’ faeces and vomit.

Her misgurided neighbours are encouraging the roaming cats by leaving food and water outside for them.

She says the council should impose a strict cat curfew and permanent trapping program.

Currently, the onus is on residents to pay $155 to hire a cat trap for a week, Ms Voutier says.

“$155 is also exorbitant for an acknowledged socio-economically disadvantaged electorate, never mind if it is refundable or not.

“Besides, the problem is now beyond such measures. Seven days is not going to cut it.”

Educating their owners is difficult due to Greater Dandenong’s culturally-diverse population, a council report stated.

“Overpopulation of cats remains a cause for concern throughout the community, in terms of the welfare of the cats, nuisance complaints and predation of wildlife.”

Some of the council’s initiatives to boost pet registration include increasing proactive park patrols and monthly microchip database cross-matching.

“Council is also of the view the current legislated process for pet registration and microchipping is duplicative and cumbersome.

“It is therefore confusing for pet owners and this can lead to lower rates of registration.”