Informal discussions in Council this week about cat management I believe has led to a cat by-law curfew.
Unlike the acceptance in society of laws governing dog ownership similar controls over cats evokes polarised views. Cat lovers have oft resisted moves at Local and State Government levels when controls are considered. Those who however have experienced cats invading their property and creating odour, noise or other, like nuisance are equally outraged that nothing is being done.
While the City of Unley has not experienced the extent of feral cat problems of other Councils, we have our share of cat related complaints. Our issues may pale compared to our neighbours Marion, Mitcham, or Burnside. Likewise, Campbelltown, who I understand have just enacted a Cat By-Law.
From what I heard from those discussions the members of Council overwhelmingly believe it is time for action. They were mindful however that the State Government is reviewing the Dog & Cat Mangement Act. Given this, there was no will to pre-empt them with our own review.
Committing Council resources in what would be (at best) duplicating the Government’s work was seen as inappropriate. At worst, we could find that we would have to undo what we determine as appropriate policy if it conflicts with the State’s legislation.
There was another (major) reason however for waiting on the State’s review. This I believe was our ability to make a by-law workable without the State legislating for state-wide action.
Members were advised there was no guarantee we could make a by-law work. This is because the Animal Welfare League is no longer receiving cats. They have not the capacity to process those they are currently receiving.
The good news is a cat by-law curfew should be short lived.
Why? Because the Government expects its review to be complete this calendar year.
Tighter controls are expected to be the result of this review. There has been extensive interest in the review with 34 councils (including Unley) submitting observations to it.
Without therefore Government controls to prevent it, we could see a problem evolve that does not exist now. That is cats being dumped by their owners and becoming strays. The reverse of what we would expect from implementing a by-law. A problem potentially greater than that we face now.
This Council therefore informally believes we should await Government legislation before attempting to create a by-law. If we will need one then, it would be appropriate to create one that responds to the new Dog & Cat Management Act.
And that is being earmarked for sometime next year (2024).