The Banning of Cats

by Michael

Why go to a heath a mile away? - photo by Anguskirk

Why go to a heath a mile away? - photo by Anguskirk

The banning of cats (and dogs) is not unheard of as it happens a lot on an individual level when landlords won't let tenants, who wish to keep a cat, rent their property (as one obvious example). This is an odd practice as it is designed to protect the contents of the property, which might be owned by the landlord. Fair enough, on the face of it, but the landlord could simply take an extra deposit. I am sure that would be accepted by most cat keepers. In the USA landlords frequently stipulate declawed cats - an obnoxious requirement as it encourages this very unpleasant practice.

But to ban cats from a housing estate of 500 houses is unheard of it seems to me. How did this come about? What are the underlying causes? Well the housing estate concerned is in Farnborough, Hampshire, England, the site of a disused airfield (a common source of building land in the UK). About a mile away is the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. It is an area of heathland where there are "rare birds including the highly endangered, ground-nesting nightjar1". Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are internationally important sites for birds, designated under the European Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (the Birds Directive)2. The directive is incorporated into the law of England and Wales through the the Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended), and the Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended).

The developer was granted planning permission from the local authority (Surrey Heath Borough Council, I believe) on the basis that house purchasers and leaseholders on the estate were banned from keeping cats (and dogs). The ban would be enforced through restrictive covenants (
for freehold houses) and under a lease (
for leasehold property, usually apartments).

The idea behind the ban is to protect these rare birds (nightjar, Dartford warblers and woodlarks). Simple on the face of it but it begs a number of questions, which calls into question the sense of this ban on cats (I am focusing on cats) from this estate:

Claim, Proposition or Event Commentary - Question
Rare species of bird will be endangered by the domestic cat. There are two species of nightjar that are rare in the UK: (1) Red-necked Nightjar, (2) Egyptian Nightjar3. The Dartford warbler and woodlarks are not listed as rare birds4. It is not clear if the nightjar species referred to left are found on the heath in question. It is a fact that the domestic cat preys on small mammals. Birds are a distant second in choice (domestic cats do not decimate bird populations)
The heath is one mile from the housing. On the basis that about one in five houses might have a cat, most being confined to the home and garden and noting the one mile distance, it is unlikely that a domestic cat would be a hazard to the birds on the heath. The home range of domestic cats can be very small (sometimes the size of a garden5) where food is abundant and a well kept cat has little need to travel over a mile to prey on a bird that is thinly populated over a wide area.
Building a 500 house estate near protected heathland. Why does the local authority allow building on this scale near protected heathland? The only reason is due to government pressure to build new housing to accommodate rising population in the UK, which in turn is mainly due to a lax immigration policy6. The problem is entirely government (local and central) generated and the humble domestic cat suffers as a consequence.
Enforceability of the banning of cats and dogs Where the property is leasehold it is manageable to enforce this ban on cats but still very troublesome (who will bother?) and where the ban is created through a restrictive covenant it is almost impossible to enforce the ban.
"As a result, the Borough Council is taking the view that planning applications are likely to be refused unless a convincing case is presented to prove that the proposed housing will not cause harm to the SPA"7 -this is the planning policy of the local authority Clearly, the way that the developer of the housing estate decided to "prove" that it would not cause harm to the SPA was by banning cats (and dogs). On the face of it this is a ill thought through policy but one that looks good and which gives the impression that something is being done.

Conclusion

Of course birds need protecting because the main cause of damage to bird populations is through human activity. If any bans are appropriate they should affect people, exclusively. This is another governmental botch. The reason for the problem is generated by government and the solution is muddy and half baked.

The Banning of Cats to Home Page

Domestic Cats Don't Decimate Bird Populations

notes

1 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1238744/Cats-dogs-banned-new-housing-estate-protect-wildlife.html

2 http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/important_tcm9-149025.pdf

3 http://web.archive.org/web/20110821141004/http://www.bbrc.org.uk/currentrarespecies.htm

4 http://web.archive.org/web/20110821141004/http://www.bbrc.org.uk/currentrarespecies.htm

5 Wild Cats Of The World by the Sunquists - page 106.

6 This is admitted by some government ministers and it is now generally accepted that controls must be instigated.

7 http://www.surreyheath.gov.uk/planning/planningpolicyandconservation/ThamesBasinSPA.htm

Comments for
The Banning of Cats

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Mar 21, 2011 thanks
by: SEO

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Jan 02, 2010 my 2 cents
by: kathy

Of course I had to add my 2 cents to this article. Im sure everyone already knows my disdain for the human race. However I am a great bird lover, also a lover of every animal race on the planet. Man is the destruction of our planet, everyone knows that. I agree with the comment "Only the strong survive". A cat will get a bird if given the chance, Its in the nature of the cat. We have to accept that. I raised birds, small fich type birds, at that time I was the owner of probaly 12 cats, and litters of kittens who were kept in the same room with the birds. The only problem I had was if a bird escaped his cage then he was fair game. MY first Bengal swallowed my red factor canary whole and didnt even leave a feather. However I did have one cat who would rescue these escaped birds and carry them in his mouth to me. Cats are hunters but they are not the destruction of this planet. We once looked at an apartment where the owners wanted an extra 100.00 if you owned a cat. Well we looked at Lia when we got home and decided it wouldnt be worth him getting a job to live there, how would he get to work and after all he has no job skills except playing with other cats.


Jan 02, 2010 Yes, they do ban cats.
by: Merrily

For the past year and a half I have been looking for a house to rent unsucessfully. You see, I have a cat!

I have owned cats all of my life, and always owned my own home. Now I am looking in a new community, and it is interesting that no one will rent to someone with a cat.

I offered to have the landlords look at my current home, talk to my landlord, meet my cat, even a very large deposit all to no avail.

For many years I owned rental houses, and I never had a problem with the cats that lived in them, Many times children caused damage, but most of the problems with my rentals were caused by adults, not cats or dogs.


Jan 02, 2010 Humans getting it wrong again!
by: Everycat

I saw a little about this on the news a week ago. It shows how little the powers that be know about the modern domestic cat. Most kittens are taken from their mothers far too young at 6 - 8 weeks. This is way below the age when mother cats start teaching their make, advanced hunting skills. To be a quality hunter, a cat should stay with its Mum for at least 12 weeks to accquire a full set of skills.

The council and the greedy developers don't understand that the biggest threat to wildlife is man. Litter, toxic waste, power lines, vast acres of glass on tall buildings, the concreting of gardens to create patios and dry up land and reduce bird friendly habitat, vehicles, air rifles ALL do farm more harm to wild birds than cats ever did.

This plan for pet free homes has a darker edge to it that I dislike too - it's encouraging communities of homogenised humans who have no connection or knowledge of living things other than themselves and their own selfish needs. I know of both children and adults who have no clue about where eggs or milk come from and one child (aged 9) who nearly died of shock when I told him what his burger was actually made of. Encouraging such disconnection and fuelling ignorance and lack of awareness amongst the human race will be our downfall.

Thanks for highlighting this idiocy!

Jane


Jan 02, 2010 Comment for The Banning of Cats
by: Helmi

I thought cats helped the strong to survive by culling out the weak and genetically compromised as well as teaching the young birds to be aware of predators. Will they next put a net over this area to protect these "last of their species" birds from Hawks, Falcons and the like?

I would like to think that whoever decided to do this has their heart in the right place, but I tend to be suspect of motives nowdays. Especially where the banning of cats is concerned.


Jan 02, 2010 Egads
by: Jan Plant

Yes! Egads! Once again,man at his finest!Government for as long as it's existence has always "put on a good face" and lay blame at someone else's door!What a shame that they never really look into it and just decide that ,"Oh my,animals in the area will endanger the bird population." They won't take into effect the damage done to the birds,by the 500 or so living areas.The pollution.Both noise and chemical.The pollutants dumped into the area through human inhabitants.The imbalance of 500+ humans in the area is a far greater danger then that of animals.Animals do not drive cars,mow lawns,run chainsaws to chop down bird habitat,or dump oils and other nasty fluids into water sources.I for one have never seen a cat,or dog for that matter smoke,or flush toxins into chanels,or leave fishing hooks and garbage along the shoreline.But I have seen humans do it.Perhaps these dignitaries making these new laws and regulations never leave the comfort of their offices.Perhaps they are sadly unaware that feral colonies are ALWAYS created by irresponsible pet owners!Ferals were created out of humans cruelty and irresponsibility,and perhaps that is the issue they should be concerned with!


Jan 02, 2010 Idiotic rule
by: Ruth

Whatever idiotic rule will someone come up with next ? I wonder why the human rights brigade aren't kicking up a fuss about this ? Even people who don't know the first thing about pets or how to look after them can just go out and get one so surely it's a human's right to be able to have a cat. A better rule would be to allow people to have a cat only if they pass a competence test first.
Banning cats isn't going to save the bird population one little bit. Cats rarely catch strong healthy birds and as you say Michael, it's human activity causing the most damage to birds.
What about the people who already have a cat, have they to 'get rid' of it ?
I despair of this world sometimes !



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