A tougher approach to managing pest and feral cats is still up to two years away, South Australia’s Environment Minister says, as a southern Adelaide council warned it had limited provisions to enforce by-laws.
- Councils across Greater Adelaide have been looking at ways to control and confine nuisance and pest cats
- South Australia’s Dog and Cat Management Act will not be reviewed for about 18 months
- The City of Onkaparinga Mayor has said the Act has limited provisions for councils to enforce cat controls
Councils across the Greater Adelaide region have been lowering their tolerance to roaming cats, with several planning or introducing by-laws that impose curfews and confinement rules.
The by-laws are aimed at better protecting native animals from predatory behaviour and preventing nuisance cats from entering other people’s yards and urinating on property.
“Cats are a major conservation problem, given the number of native species they attack and kill every single day, when they are wandering at large,” Environment Minister David Speirs told ABC Radio Adelaide.
But he said SA’s Dog and Cat Management Act was not up for legislative review for about 18 months and urged councils to create their own by-laws in the meantime.
“Anything this State Government does could be 18 months to two years away, so councils could quite easily get on with this now,” Mr Speirs said.
But City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said, while a council could implement by-laws under the act, it did not include an “offence for a cat wandering at large”.
“And subsequently, the act doesn’t contemplate the detention of owned cats, their return, or disposal.”
She said the Dog and Cat Management Board was resourced by 68 councils — her own contributed $320,000 in the past financial year — and that should be responded to “centrally with a state-wide approach to cat management”.
Councils reined in
The City of Marion wants to impose an overnight cat curfew, although its proposal to allow for lawfully trapped cats to be destroyed if they were not claimed with 72 hours was knocked back by Parliament’s Legislative Review Committee (LRC) earlier this year.
The Town of Gawler Council has sought feedback on a similar by-law, which would also allow for the seizure, detention, and destruction (by an authorised person) of cats caught wandering at large.
Campbelltown City Council had sought to fix permittable wandering-at-large times for cats, which was disallowed by the LRC, and was now pursuing a full confinement order from January 2024.
The Adelaide Hills Council has successfully adopted a by-law that will require domestic cats to be kept at home at all times from January 1, 2022, unless they are on a harness or a leash.
Mount Barker District Council has imposed a night-time curfew on cats between 8:00pm and 7:00am, while multiple councils, including the City of Mitcham, have introduced by-laws that restrict ownership to just two de-sexed cats per property.
Mr Speirs said it would be of “benefit to have statewide laws in many things councils have the power to create by-laws on”.
“There is nothing to stop councils to get on and create these by-laws,” he said.
“Councils can do this, and should be doing this.”
Ms Thompson said “unified action and the technical expertise” of the board was required now.
“The Minister says this shouldn’t stop councils making by-laws, however, the by-law making process takes at least 12 months — [it was] two years for the City of Marion before it was disallowed,” she said.
“[It] will cost between $18,000 to $28,000 and would in all likelihood become obsolete once the act is amended.”
The City of Onkaparinga’s position follows an attack blamed on a feral cat at the Minton Farm Native Animal Rescue Centre, where an animal climbed into a fox-proof electrified area and killed some ducks.
The centre’s Bev Langley said they had been enduring cat attacks on native animals every year for nearly three decades, but it had escalated to the point where it was “absolutely unsustainable”.
“Last week we got eight rescues in, and six of them were from domestic cat attacks,” she said.
“If I can’t keep them safe in a fox-proofed area from cats, what is the point of releasing them just for cats to kill?”