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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Claws out for 24-hour cat curfew

Wellington Shire Council has announced it will introduce a 24-hour cat curfew to manage the municipality’s cat population and better protect biodiversity, including plants and wildlife.

The new 24-hour cat curfew comes after extensive community consultation and will promote responsible pet ownership by limiting the number of wandering and nuisance cats, ensuring all pets and animals can live harmoniously within Wellington, Council said in a statement.

Council data shows that in the last 12 months, 393 cats and kittens have been delivered to Animal Aid in Sale, and 280 reports of nuisance or wandering cats were received and actioned by Council staff.

In the 2021-2025 Domestic Animal Management Plan (DAM Plan), Council says it conducted a thorough review of cat containment rules, with a view to consider the introduction of a 24-hour cat curfew. Feedback showed that the introduction of a cat curfew was supported by the majority of respondents.

In late 2022, further consultation revealed that almost 70% of respondents wanted a 24-hour cat curfew instead of no restrictions to stop cats wandering away from their properties.

Having considered the feedback and suggestions received from the community, Council concluded that a 24-hour cat curfew would be adopted, requiring cats to be confined to their owners’ properties or yards at all times.

Councillor Beth Ripper spoke to the order at Council’s December meeting, saying that 1,628 submissions had been received, with 68% in support of the cat curfew.

“It is proposed that a six-month amnesty will be put in place while an advisory and educational campaign is promoted – aimed specifically at cat owners,” she said.

“The amnesty essentially pushes back the enforcement and allows Council to adequately communicate the new requirements.”

Mayor, Ian Bye said Council was committed to the protection of animals, the amenity and biodiversity that exists throughout the Shire.

“As part of this innovative approach to cat management, we want all cat owners to be well prepared, educated, and comfortable with the new requirements,” said Mayor Bye.

“Keeping your cat inside or in an enclosure will support their health and help them live longer. If their basic needs are met, cats can enjoy longer and healthier lives when safely contained to your property.

“We understand that owners and their cats may not be fully prepared for 24-hour containment. To ease the pressure on pet owners, we are allowing for a fair and gradual transition over the next six months to support cat owners to fully understand the new requirements, and what is expected under a 24-hour cat curfew,” he said.

Between 19 January and 1 July 2023, Council says it will run a significant educational campaign to ensure residents are prepared for the 24-hour cat curfew to be enforced.

From 1 July, enforcement activities will commence. This process ensures pet ownership equality and will be as follows:

  • First occurrence: wherever possible the cat will be returned to its registered owner;
  • Second occurrence: cat returned, and warning issued;
  • Third occurrence: cat impounded and/or infringement issued.

Penalties for a breach of the curfew will range from $185 for the first offence, and $555 for second or subsequent offences.

Immediate changes to cat ownership include:

  • Wellington Shire residents must keep their cats confined within their property boundary. Cats are free to go outside in your front or backyard if it is enclosed or be kept in a suitable cat enclosure.
  • To reduce the possibility of incurring any enforcement costs, cat owners must ensure that their cat is registered with Council. Registering your cat each year allows Council to reunite lost cats with their owners faster, by having up-to-date contact details.
  • Cat owners may not be aware that their cat is roaming and causing problems in their neighbourhood. All wandering or nuisance cats without registration will be taken to the Animal Aid pound and shelter in Sale. If Council cannot reunite animals with their owners and they are taken to Animal Aid, there will be a fee to have them released.

More information on the 24-hour cat curfew can be found at https://www.wellington.vic.gov.au/community/cat-curfew.

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