Cats in German town under strict lockdown to save crested larks

COMMENT AND NEWS-WALLDORF, SOUTHWESTERN, GERMANY: The environmental officers of this German town have banned domestic cats from roaming free in an effort to stop them preying upon and eating crested larks during their breeding season. They said that their order would remain in force until September. People in breaches of the order would face fines of up to €50,000; a very steep punishment. There is no doubt that the authorities intend the order to stick and I know why because it is very difficult to enforce this kind of rule. As they will struggle to enforce it rigorously, they must ensure that it is adhered to and the best way to achieve that is through fear ?!

Crested lark

Crested lark. Image by Vasil Tanev from Pixabay

It is unusual for a European town to confine domestic cats to their homes. It may be unique. The environmental officers said that there are only three breeding pairs of this grey-brown bird in the town and that “the survival of each individual young bird is therefore crucial for the survival of the species”.

The ban runs from April 1, 2022 to August 2025. The administrators believe that there is a high density of roaming domestic cats in the south of their town which make the measures essentially. Although crested larks are also at risk from predation by magpies, ravens and foxes. The crested lark is a ground-nesting bird with an estimated European population of 34 million-47 million. The bird is 17 cm long.

The authorities state that if a domestic cat escapes their home, they must call a number to report it to town officials and start a search immediately. If they fail to comply with this rule, they will be liable to a fine of €500. This fine will increase to €50,000 if and when their cat injures or kills a crested lark.

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The rule does not prevent people taking their cat out on a leash but the lease must be no longer than 2 meters in length. Another option is for cat owners to attach a GPS tracker to their cat companion to prove that they have not entered the “danger zone” where the birds nest. And in a further concession to cat owners, they stated that if they can prove that their cat did not pose a danger to birds, they would make an exception. It may be difficult to prove that. It may be impossible to prove it! One possibility is that a cat has no teeth but I don’t think this prevents a cat from attacking and killing a bird.

The authority has set up a dedicated agency to look out for miscreant cats and owners to try and enforce the ordinance. They will check identification tags and, I presume, scan microchips and/or follow the cats home.

There is concern among some experts living in Germany that its 19 million domestic cats are posing a problem to the country’s bird life in that they are cutting their populations which are already decreasing in any event (due to human activity?). This is a perennial and constant problem not only in Germany but in many other countries where there is almost a battle between ornithologists and cat owners. In the middle are the local authorities which have to try and do something about it.

A challenge has been set up against this law/ordnance by the Animal Welfare Association who have said that they will take legal action against it. The body’s chairman has asked cat owners to stay calm and that “We will do our best to stop this disproportionate measure”.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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