8 Sep 2015

Calls for law change to deal with stray cats

From Nine To Noon, 9:34 am on 8 September 2015

Who is responsible for dealing with stray cats?

A colony of feral cats.

A colony of feral cats. Photo: Public domain

Some SPCA branches are `trapping, neutering and releasing' stray cats back to their colonies, which has angered environmentalists,  who say the strays are devastating native wildlife and should be put down. Nine to Noon discussed this on Monday with Professor Brett Gartrell, of New Zealand's only dedicated wildlife hospital, Wildbase at Massey University and the Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand SPCA Rick Odem.

Stray cat

Photo: 123rf

Since then, we have attempted to find out just who is responsible for dealing with strays. It turns out no one is.

Stray cats are not officially classed as pests, unlike feral cats which have no contact with humans. 

The Department of Conservation says strays are not their responsibility, and it's councils who deal with them.

But Local Government New Zealand tells us stray cats are "certainly not an issue which is the responsibility of local government, in fact council have very limited powers for dealing with the issue".

So we asked the Conservation Minister, Maggie Barry. But she declined to speak to Nine to Noon or give any kind of statement.

A report on Pet Biosecurity for the Ministry of Primary Industries in 2012 suggests a legislation change may be needed, as "there is no legislation in place to address the systemic risk associated with the transfer of pet animals into the environment". It says the Animal welfare act is not sufficient to prevent the biosecurity risk posed by the release of pet animals into the environment.

So at present, much of the work dealing with stray cats it seems, is left to volunteer groups.

Peter Dorman is the founder of The Lonely Miaow, an Auckland volunteer group that tries to rehome stray cats in Auckland. There are an estimated 20 thousand colonies of strays in the city, and Mr Dorman says the group can't keep up, but is the only organisation dealing with strays in the city.

He spoke with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon