This is another idea to try and reduce the predation of domestic cats on wildlife in New Zealand. New Zealand has a similar policy towards domestic and feral cats as they have in Australia.
Currently being discussed by Auckland’s council is the introduction of a city ordinance which allows the local authorities to kill cats without microchips found roaming in sensitive environments where there are important native species.
Auckland Council is proposing to spend $307 million over a 10 year period to help protect ecosystems and threatened species from the region’s pests. Clearly they consider domestic cats wandering around without microchips as pests.
I think they’re going to have difficulty in making this work because it would mean destroying a person’s possession to which they have legal ownership and that would be an act of criminal damage unless an exception is made within the criminal code which I think presents complications.
Apparently an estimated one third of cats in New Zealand are microchipped but there are no firm statistics as to the number of microchipped cats in Auckland because at the moment micro-chipping is a voluntary process. Perhaps it would be advisable to make it obligatory and I suspect they will do that before they introduce the proposed law.
The council is walking a tightrope because they’re trying to balance the rights of the citizens of Auckland, a major city in New Zealand, and the value of their domestic cats with protecting the environment and native species. This is certainly a balancing act. My gut feeling is that the better process would be to educate pet owners and achieve a much higher rate of microchipping together with a much higher rate of keeping domestic cats within enclosures attached to homes wherever possible.
I would predict that this policy will not get through the discussion phase because there will be objections from cat owners in the community and their representatives at council meetings.
A council spokesperson considered the idea to be an extension of the classification of feral cats as pests. They do not consider it as a reactive program by which I believe they mean and knee-jerk reaction.
They intend to make the program well-planned at specific sites of ecological significance where other pests such as rats and possums are already managed.
One of the problems which always arises in these sort of discussions is that somebody, usually an expert, presents numerous statistics about domestic and feral cat predation of native species without any real supporting evidence to ensure that the statistics are accurate and then bases his argument upon those statistics. It is not a good way to proceed. For example, Auckland’s bio security manager Phil Brown said (as reported by the staff.co.nz website) that cats had contributed to 14% of modern bird, mammal and reptile extinctions and 8% of critically endangered birds, mammals and reptiles globally were threatened by cats. We just don’t know whether this is true or not. They are scientific estimates.
Regarding pest management, cats, are most often discussed. That doesn’t surprise me in New Zealand. Most of the submissions call for enhanced management of cats. Clearly the country is moving towards more restrictive ownership of domestic cats.