The ACT government’s cat containment laws have fallen behind the release of new suburbs, leaving pet owners in many areas having to build enclosures in the future, or risk having their roaming cat locked up.
Since its introduction in 2000, legislation has been refined to protect rare animals in the bush with 24 hours a day containment, but some residents are moving to new suburbs nearby, unaware of their obligations.
The ACT Conservation Council says residents should be told before buying into new suburbs that they will be subject to the containment laws, which are aimed at protecting native birds, lizards and frogs.
Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury has declared Moncrieff and Jacka as the latest cat containment suburbs, and is about to write to Jacka residents to say they have until January 1, 2017, to act. Mr Rattenbury says between 100 and 200 homes in Jacka could be subject to the legislation, as well as new homes in the future.
“It would be unreasonable to declare cat containment with immediate effect for an existing suburb,” Mr Rattenbury said. “People should not suddenly be in a situation where their cat is illegally roaming because the government changed the law overnight.”
Mr Rattenbury said the entire Molonglo area had not been declared a cat containment area because some suburb boundaries were still being defined. But the Conservation Council says declarations can be made using strategic assessment maps.
ACT director Clare Henderson said suburbs should be declared earlier. “We have had to lobby case by case for a declaration of suburb, but it is policy; they should all be declared as early as possible before suburbs are named and land sold. In Forde and Bonner the declarations were used as a positive selling point.”
The council says former Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur’s comments in 2011 made clear the Greens policy that new outer residential areas should be compulsory cat containment areas and there should be retro-fitting in areas where properties adjoin nature reserves. Making this government policy would give people clarity and certainty.
“New suburbs being planned and built right now which should be clear cat containment areas such as Lawson, the whole of Molonglo – not suburb by suburb – the future part of Holt, Kenny, Throsby and all other suburbs which are adjacent to natural areas,” Ms Le Couteur had said.
Mr Rattenbury said a breakdown in communication had been overcome between the Land Development Agency, which releases and markets new suburbs, and his department. But he could not specify a declaration date for Casey, a new, well established suburb near Kinlyside that harbours rare species.
Cat Containment suburbs
Being a cat owner is enjoyable and rewarding however brings with it responsibilities.
As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your cat is happy and healthy and is not negatively impacting the community in any way.
An ACT study revealed domestic cats are responsible for killing a total of 67 different species of birds and animals. You can reduce the risk to native wildlife by keeping your cat indoors, particularly between sunset and sunrise and by putting a bell on your cat’s collar to provide a warning to other animals.
Cat containment areas in the ACT
A cat containment area can be declared in a suburb, or area of a suburb, if there is a serious nature conservation threat as a result of cat activities. The ACT Government pursuant to Section 81 of the Domestic Animals Act 2000, has declared the following areas to be cat containment areas:
- Denman Prospect
- The Fair at Watson
A map showing cat containment areas is also available. Residents within cat containment areas are required to keep their cats confined to their premises at all times.