Many of our cat friends love to roam outdoors, but we need a plan to keep them inside, for their own safety as well as that of local wildlife
The Greens are calling on the NSW Government to urgently prepare and fund an evidence-based statewide plan similar to the one we helped roll out in the ACT. The plan must include subsidised desexing and microchipping, an end to kitten farms, increased funding for pounds and shelters, and urgent rental reforms to ensure we have more cat-friendly homes.
Our plan – overview
- Delayed implementation of cat containment laws by at least 12 months after passing - this will ensure vital elements of the plan can be put in place first (including free/subsidised desexing, microchipping and registration and the rollout of a responsible cat ownership program), but with the certainty of a set implementation date to work towards
- Phased in compliance approach - a phased implementation of cat containment rules will assist in maximising cat welfare, allowing more effective responsible cat ownership education and reducing the disproportionate burden of the change on lower income households
- A cat containment scheme cannot be introduced in isolation – to avoid negative outcomes on cat welfare and/or a scheme which is ineffective in its goal of reducing risk to wildlife, rental law reform and an overhaul of our broken pound system is required
Different approach for 3 different groups of domestic cat populations based on evidence of what is most effective at genuinely reducing the risk to wildlife while maximising animal welfare outcomes in all three domestic cat groups. Wild cats (sometimes called “feral”) are considered separately.
- owned or pet cats (cared for by a specific person or people)
- semi-owned or community/colony cats (cared for by people but not residing at a particular property)
- unowned or stray cats (indirectly depending on humans but with no-one directly feeding them, including abandoned cats)
- 24-hour per day cat containment for newly-homed cats, with older cats required to be contained at least at night.
- Cat curfew rules for owned and semi-owned cats should be consistent across the State, with implementation and enforcement resourced by the State government. The State government must also be responsible for a state-wide education campaign. State-wide implementation rather than council-by-council implementation is important both to avoid further cost-shifting from State to local government and to ensure that cat owners and semi-owners are aware of their obligations without the confusion that would otherwise be caused by having different rules in different LGAs.
Our plan – pet cats
- Statewide education campaign to ensure responsible cat ownership, including the need to desex, microchip and register pet cats as well as to keep cats indoors, and information on how to best provide for cat welfare when cats are contained
- A large-scale and well-resourced program of subsidised desexing and microchipping
- Reforms to the regulations governing the Companion Animals Register to ensure that the register remains accurate and is fit for purpose
- A temporary amnesty on cat registration for those people who failed to desex and register their cats within required time periods, and at reduced or no cost for those unable to pay registration
- An end to kitten farms and irresponsible mass breeding of cats which currently discourages the adoption of the thousands of cats in pounds and shelters waiting for their forever homes. Those wanting to own more than 4 cats or to breed for commercial gain will be required to apply for a licence
- Reform to our rental laws to enable many more people to house cats safely in their homes and reduce rates of cat surrender
- Funding for specialist animal shelters to temporarily house the companion animals of those fleeing domestic and family violence
- Updates to our outdated laws and codes of practice relating to companion animals
- Significant funding and reforms to animal welfare codes of practice to ensure that pounds and shelters across our State are working towards a policy of zero-kill; fees for collection from pounds not to act as a deterrent to collection
- Newly-homed cats to be contained indoors, on a lead or in an outside enclosure 24 hours a day. Cats already within homes will be subject to a nighttime curfew
- Cat containment enforcement to be through progressive penalties (both in terms of warnings followed by increasing penalties for subsequent breaches, but also in terms of reduced fees for those long low incomes) with delayed implementation of fines until 24 months after passage of the new laws
Our plan – semi-owned cats
- Measures to encourage adoption by those currently caring for semi-owned cats (including subsidised desexing, free registration and other measures as above and targeted education programs)
- Trap, neuter and adopt/return programs funded by State government
Our plan – stray/unowned domestic cats
- Targeted desexing programs funded by the State government and rolled out to specific areas where threat to wildlife
- Trap, neuter and adopt/return to community to permanently reduce community cat numbers
- Microchip and enable a special category of community cat registration in order to keep track of stray/unowned domestic cats
NB: This plan is not intended to apply to wild or "feral" cats that are not domesticated.
Chip & Snip – education + subsidised desexing and vaccination
Desexed cats are generally happier, healthier, and easier to care for as they do not exhibit the behaviours and health complications that arise from being sexually mature or going into heat.
The Greens will make desexing at the point of sale or adoption mandatory for everyone except registered breeders, and vaccination mandatory for everyone. We will also establish a desexing education program and work with local councils and existing desexing programs to provide targeted subsidised desexing for people whose cat is not yet desexed.
Not only will this result in healthier companion animals, it will also curb backyard breeding, accidental litters and stray cat populations, reducing the burden on pounds and shelters.
Reforming our broken pound and shelter system
Council-run pounds and shelters provide an essential public service, but because they are under-resourced and under-regulated many council pounds are run down, don’t meet basic welfare standards, and do not allow public access for adoption at all.
The devastating outcome is the avoidable death of far too many companion animals, with 1 in 12 dogs and 1 in 3 cats that enter council pounds being killed for reasons other than illness or injury. Fixing our pounds and shelters will require a holistic intervention.
The Greens will:
- Phase in no-kill laws to prevent the killing of healthy impounded companion animals, while still allowing euthanasia on compassionate grounds
- Immediately ban euthanasia by any method other than intravenous injection
- Overhaul welfare standards, including by introducing a dedicated Code of Practice to replace the NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No 5 - Dogs and cats in animal boarding establishments, developed in consultation with animal welfare experts, community-run rescues and local councils
- Support local councils to comply with welfare standards by developing best-practice guidelines and strategies to complement the new Code of Practice and providing funding to enable the implementation of improved standards and, where necessary, for ongoing compliance
- Enforce welfare standards with regular facility auditing and the introduction of a single contact point for all pound and shelter welfare complaints or concerns
- Urgently fund capital works upgrades to ensure all NSW pounds and shelters protect animals from extreme temperatures and allow appropriate, varied and enriching exercise and play
- Resource RSPCA, Animal Welfare League and community-run rescues
Shutting down kitten mills
Cats are wonderful companions, not commodities to be treated like breeding machines for profit. Kitten farms flourish because they operate in the dark, with lax regulation on breeding and poor planning laws providing protection to even the most notorious intensive breeding facilities.
NSW is falling behind the rest of the country in regulating and preventing animal cruelty, and with neighbouring states tightening laws and their kitten farms moving across the border to NSW, it’s more important than ever for legislative change here.
The Greens are committed to protecting companion animals from exploitation by the callous commercial pet breeding industry.
We will shut down kitten farms by:
- Mandating breeder registration and introducing regular compliance requirements.
- Raising welfare standards in the breeding Code of Practice and making them enforceable.
- Capping animal numbers, with limits on fertile female animals per breeder, total animals on a single property and total litters whelped per female animal.
- Banning surgical artificial insemination.
- Giving power back to councils and local residents to oppose intensive commercial breeding facilities in their community.
- Establishing prior animal cruelty charges as grounds for breeding facility development application refusal.
- Resourcing RSPCA and Animal Welfare League inspectorate programs.
Banning pet shops from selling companion animals except in partnership with animal shelters and rescues, ending the kitten mill to pet shop pipeline and ensuring the cats most in need are rehomed.