Cat Management Laws of Tasmania

Tasmanian woman and cat
Tasmanian woman and cat. Photo by David Burke
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Tasmania has adopted a very honest approach to “cat shelters”. They call them “cat management facilities”. That does sound a bit dark and mysterious but it is a much better name because the word “shelter” is often wholly inappropriate as cats are often not sheltered at these places.

Cat management facilities are part of a general change in laws relating to the ownership and management of cats that came into force on 1st July 2012.

Essentially these laws inject some degree of regulation and control into cat ownership. I have been writing about this for a while. I tend to agree that some sort of control of cat ownership is beneficial to society and the cats because sadly there will always be a minority of people who are irresponsible or less than adequate in the care of their cat(s).

The laws are

  • Cat Management Act 2009 and
  • Cat Management Regulations 2012

In outline this legislation introduced the following:

Cat breeders must be registered – if not, it is an offence. I like that. An individual person can sell or give away a cat but the cat must be microchipped, neutered or spayed, wormed, vaccinated and be at least 8 weeks old.

Cat management facilities are the modern equivalent of cat shelters, receiving stray cats. At the facility, ownership of the rescued cat is established through the microchip and the cat returned. Unmicrochipped cats are held for 3 days, unreturned microchipped cats for 5 days. Failure to find the owner results in the cat being rehomed, sold or euthanised. That is honest, at least.

Compulsory neutering and spaying of cats is being phased in. At the moment, owners are encouraged to neuter and microchip their cats. When compulsory microchipping has been fully introduced a cat that finds his way to a cat management facility will not be released to his owner unless he is microchipped and neutered.

This is a link to a handout from the Tasmanian government: Cat ownership laws Tasmania 2012

So, you what do you make of it? It seems to be a nice balance between a bit of regulation to force the minority of less than good cat caretakers to sharpen up while maintaining some freedoms. Most Tasmanian cat owners will already have micrchipped and neutered/spayed their cats. They won’t be selling unfixed cats to neighbours or letting them breed and so on. The law won’t affect them. Registration of individual cats is not yet required at a national level although some local governments may require it. I suspect that registration of all cats may one day be phased in and that would be a big step and controversial one.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

6 thoughts on “Cat Management Laws of Tasmania”

  1. Christine, Ontario

    I agree breeders need to be registered, but I hope that’s backed up with enforcement by educated, compassionate leadership. Laws should not end up costing animals their lives. I would need a lot more info about programs that are in place or proposed.

    Enforcement requires funding, so how will that affect animal care programs and lives?

    Based on evidence seen in cities that have them, there are problems with mandatory laws where they can end up doing the opposite of what they were intend to do.

    “By far the most common reason people don’t alter their pets currently is because of cost or lack of access to low cost spay/neuter services. Making spay/neuter mandatory doesn’t change this. In fact, it often makes the situation worse, because by the time the law gets involved, the pet owners is often looking at a $500 fine (or more) that they can’t afford, on top of the surgery cost they couldn’t afford.”
    – Brent Toellner,
    President of the KC Pet Project

    I agree that owned cats not part of a breeding program need to be sterilized to both control population and make them suitable pets, but mandatory microchipping and sterilization, or mandatory spay/neuter, MSN, can result in cats (and other pets) being relinquished or abandoned. It often means that feral and community cats are trapped and killed instead of being TNR’d or allowed to return to their homes.

    Just like with arbitrary pet limits and dog breed bans, those with unaltered cats definitely won’t be registering them for ID either. Mandatory laws are often seen as a barrier to getting all pets registered and wearing ID so they can be returned if lost.

    It makes no sense to fine a cat owner for not having their cats microchipped and fixed if they can’t afford the surgery to begin with. Is this program designed to help keep cats out of shelters and pounds, and does it actually achieve that and save lives? Simply “managing cats” as if they are “managing weeds” is not be acceptable.

    I’ve looked at some programs, and they can be difficult to gauge their success since many shelters are not required to provide detailed shelter intake and outcome statistics, and reasons for animal relinquishment. This makes it difficult to compare one shelter to another, nevermind countries.

    If my city demonstrated that companion animals were disposible, had poor services and treated pet owners like criminals, I don’t think I’d support or comply with the laws. Arbitrary laws tend to make criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens.

    What is the answer? Like most people, I definitely want all possible cats spayed and neutered, all lost cats back home, all possible cats retained in their homes or territories, and adoptable cats to find new homes.

    Evidence points to making subsidised and free spay/neuter available to help pet owners and colony care takers who need it, and making sure TNR and feeding domestic animals is guaranteed under the law(New York state mandates all domestic animals must be fed). Those who can afford it have already had their cats fixed, meaning in developed countries with decent wages and jobs, spay/neuter rates are at least 80 percent.

    While Calgary, Alberta has achieved probably the highest mandatory pet ID (licensing) compliance for a large city (95 percent for dogs, about 55 percent for cats), I’m not convinced that having large fines for that mandatory law is necessary. Their webinar stated they have some donations so everyone can afford licenses, but I haven’t seen proof of that on their site.

    Purchasing and renewing their pet ID more attractive is because of a few things:

    – 100 percent of ID funds go towards animal programs, including funding the city’s subsidised spay/neuter clinic, and vetting shelter and injured stray animals.
    – Pet owners receive services in turn for funds. Efforts are made to keep stray pets out of the shelter by identifying them in the field and driving them right home if they have ID (hopefully the chance to purchase updated ID too).
    – Pet ID rewards savings card program is a positive incentive program that more than offsets the cost of ID ( This type of incentive has been copied by other cities, including Regina and Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, and recently, London, Ontario.

    Calgary noted they removed the barriers to getting all pets registered by looking at the evidence and not having pet limits, breed bans, and mandatory spay/neuter. Welfare and property standards (bylaws) are enforced instead of arbitrary laws.

    You may hear about responsible pet ownership and the “Calgary model” being recommended, but it’s not comprehensive and ignores other programs and services that help their community.

    Their animal services only accepts strays; owner surrendered pets must go to the local humane society. TNR and pet retention services, are not part of the Calgary model but are available in their community. The city website does not refer people to info about TNR availability, like some other cities do. They will kill cats for being “aggressive”, but have a ratings system for dog aggression where they look at circumstances.

    In summary, I believe a progressive community with a controlled cat population with high return to owner rate is possible through implementing a positive incentive rewards programs in combination with the comprehensive No Kill Equation that a growing number of communities are using. Even the Nova Scotia SPCA put the NKE in place, including transparency.

    A few references:

    Brent is president of the successful group that has the shelter contract for the Kansas City, MO. He’s amassed a lot of info on various laws, programs and services that help make it possible to save more lives so his blog is a terrific resource.

    Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws – ASPCA and many others opposed to MSN –

    Calgary model –

    The Dark Side of Mandatory Licensing and Neuter Laws –

    Learn (NKE and more) –

    Out The Front Door blog – Details about communities who’ve achieved and maintained 90 percent or greater live release rate, with transparency, and upcoming communities –

    1. Thanks for the comment. It would have been nice if it came to an overall conclusion/recommendation in 5-10 lines summing it all up. Do you have a recommendation which can be stated in 5 lines?

      The truth that there is a percentage of cat owners who are not responsible enough and don’t neuter their cats and they let their cats breed or wander and breed. I believe that the only way to change the attitude of these people is through carefully chosen legislation which is enforced and then gradually people’s behaviour alters. It’s a bit like wearing seatbelts. At one time they were unheard of and it felt strange to wear them when they first came out. These days, it feels strange not to wear one. That is an example of the law changing attitudes. It is all about education but I believe we have to push people down the right path because people are not as good as we hope sometimes.

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Good laws which will hopefully encourage the right people to be cat ‘owners’
    It’s sad though that the time before rehoming, selling or euthanising unclaimed cats is so short, especially the last one. Also as you say Michael the irresponsible ‘owners’ just won’t bother they will simply take a chance and if they lose their cat just go out and get another kitten.

    1. Cats and society need the “right people” to be “cat owners”. There are too many unsuitable cat caretakers. I hope that this sort of law puts off people who are unsuited to cat ownership.

  3. Its also good because it starts a new way of thinking – kids will grow up accustomed to these minor laws and it will general cause people there to have a slightly more developed understanding of how to care for cats. It also means the ones who intend to break the laws will either go elsewhere or have more trouble doing, especially if they are surrounded by good people who wont buy from them because they happen to know better because of said laws. It all amounts to, in time, a kind of a quantum growth spurt in cat caretaking quality and understanding – a general change of attitude.

    1. it starts a new way of thinking

      Yes, absolutely, it changes attitudes. The law can “train” people. It is true. What I mean is the law changes the “norms” of life – what is expected and considered normal and correct. This is the law working in a proactive and constructive way.

      People need training and pushing. We are flesh and blood, weak and flawed. We need training, conditioning, educating etc.

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