The domestic animal control regulations of the state of Victoria, Australia, although well intentioned can have some distressing consequences. They need refining or their application needs refining.
The State of Victoria, Australia has some pretty advanced law concerned with the keeping of domestic cats and dogs. The law has been around since 1994. I am referring to the Domestic Animals Act 1994.
Under the Act cat owners must register their cats with the local council and also identify their cats with a microchip. A cat has to be microchipped before it can be registered.
These key requirements are very important and are an attempt to manage the stray cat population of Victoria. The state has grasped the nettle and done something quite radical to reduce the stray cat population.
By registering and identifying all cats, irresponsible cat owners are forced to be responsible. Stray cats can be picked up and returned to their owners. This is about managing cats better in the community.
I like that but the Act can have some nasty consequences. The law allows people to trap a cat that has wandered onto their land.
“If a dog or cat has been present on private property on more than one occasion without the permission of the owner or occupier of the property, the owner or occupier of private property or an authorised officer may seize the dog or cat while it is present on the property.”
This is dangerous for the cat and potentially very upsetting for the cat’s caretaker. This is because not everyone has microchipped and registered their cat. The uptake in compliance is probably slow even though the regulations have been around for a long time.
If a cat is not microchipped he should not be let outside. If he is let out and he wanders onto someone’s private property he can trapped, taken to the pound and promptly killed. It does not matter if the cat is obviously a domestic cat and “owned” by a person.
That happened to a cat named “Bubba” who was owned by Dean Nicholson. Bubba was rescued by Dean 15 years ago. Dean obviously was at fault in not complying with the law but his cat was loved and well cared for, his cat had a collar and an ear tattoo clearly indicating ownership. Ear tattoo identifications are probably better than microchips as they are safer. Microchipping is not 100% safe. The chips can move and cause cancer.
The Bubba case is an example of how the rules can be applied in a heavy handed and cruel way. Also it seems that people who don’t like cats can abuse the system by trapping cats with bait as if they were trapping a wild animal. These people will know that if the cat is not microchipped he or she will be euthanised. It is a legal way of killing cats in Victoria, Australia.
After trapping the cat has to picked up by the local authority’s animal control officers and taken to the pound. If the cat cannot be identified the cat is put down. There you have it. Incidentally the people who killed Bubba made the excuse that the cat was “diseased”. This according to Dean was untrue. He was healthy.
Refining the Law
Why was the tattoo identification ignored? Isn’t there a database in Victoria or Australia of tattoo ID numbers? I would have thought under these circumstances the person who trapped Bubba had a duty to find the owner. The law should be changed to accommodate that.
Where the cat trapped is obviously a domestic cat the person trapping the cat should have a duty to at least try and find the owner if the cat does not have an ID in the form of a microchip some other method. There should be some room for the exercise of discretion to modify the harshness of this legislation.
Is this a good or bad thing? Clearly the killing of a much loved cat is very bad but is the law bad? Should the USA introduce similar rules?