Bobby on arrival
This is a sad story of cats being used for crab bait in Northern Territory, Australia.
Recently on my bike ride to work from the suburbs into Darwin, I happened upon a pile of ‘feral’ ‘stray’ generally unowned cats in a housing commission set of units. Most were extremely thin and not looking at all in good condition. For a week I left cat biscuits on the ground in various spots which were devoured very quickly. Given the number of females (1 very pregnant) I decided to make some quick enquiries, contacted council and tried to ‘do’ something about it all.
I have a contact who lives down the road who told me not to go to the units alone. I found the police frequenting often, and knew there was a lot of mental health plus drug dealings going on in the units, and of course the ubiquitous alcohol abuse that is ever prevalent in the NT.
However out of all of this I found Tommy – an indigenous man who claimed to own some of the cats (only 4). Once I had engaged with him he admitted that he had difficulties when they kept breeding and after a bit of prodding told me he ‘got rid of them’. A bit more prodding revealed the people who he gave them to were using them as crab bait! This involves putting live cats in crab pots, throwing them over the boat and catching crabs. This is not the first reporting of this abuse. I have close ties to the RSPCA who advise that (don’t know how often) cats are brought in where they have been rescued from crab pots. (NB Tommy is basically a good bloke but ignorant of how to care for cats and uneducated in abuse issues – I know abuse seems painfully obvious but culture has a lot to do with the way people view animals)
Unfortunately by the time I had found this out (only a week after my initial discovery) a good number of the cats from the units were not longer around.I continued to work with Tommy and eventually I got 4 of his cats desexed (3 females and one male although Tommy thought they were all females and I didn’t shatter his illusions!.
I ended up catching 7 cats. Two I had to take to the pound where they were euthanized unfortunately. One, Bobby, accidentally ended up with me – long story (see him in the photo above)! And 4 were returned to the very dubious environment of the units. I haven’t been able to catch up with Tommy due to his strange working hours but have seen his cats wandering around. I have yet to catch 4 more males but this can wait a while yet until my finances recover!
I do believe that Tommy will care for his 4 cats the best way he can however Darwin is full of housing commission houses which are full of breeding cats. The authorities here are not interested in the trap, neuter and return program and the general attitude when one mentions this program is ‘how irresponsible to put them back after all they kill wildlife so we should kill cats’ – sigh - it’s a never ending battle. On one of my sojourns to the units one man from a different set of units asked where he could get a trap from. Councils here lend them for the cost of a deposit. I advised, once trapped, he could take the cats to one of the 2 animal shelters. He looked at me in distain and said he would just put them in the wheelie bin (this equates to filling up the rubbish bin with water and putting trap (+ cat) in the water, then starting again). My friend and I got the make, model and rego number of his vehicle and reported it but the authorities were not interested.
The NT has some OK animal welfare laws, nothing monumental but given we have an area of well over ½ a million square miles and one very small Government department with 2 or 3 (not quite sure of the staffing) employees the issue of addressing animal cruelty is woefully inadequate. RSPCA do not have mandate for animal cruelty in the NT as they do in the rest of Australia (or in UK I believe). The resources which are put into animal welfare in the NT are indicative of the importance with which it is regarded.
On another occasion a woman, who I later got to know, found some cats and kittens (which I had been involved in – a completely different story) being dumped close to our tip. Between us we took this to the police who were completely disinterested (it clearly states abandonment of an animal is an offence under the act). After months and months of contact with the police we finally took the matter to the ombudsman whereupon the police acted. The senior detective sergeant who was assigned didn’t even know there was an animal welfare act let alone that it was police duty to enforce it!!!! The dumper got off on a technicality. The saddest part is that some of these cats were deaf and some blind (we know that from those that were saved)
The NT has some extremely poor attitudes towards cats, much worse than the rest of Australia, hence there is a lot of work to be done by volunteers. Unfortunately the problem is vast and the volunteers are few.
But things could be worse, we could be living in parts of Asia where animal cruelty vastly exceeds anything which happens in Australia.
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