Is mandatory cat registration the future of cat ownership?

Cat registration
Cat registration. ACT leads on the full package of measures to control cat ownership. Infographic by MikeB at PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

New Zealand and Australia lead the way on discussing and implementing obligatory cat registration through specific legislation. This is because the authorities believe that they have valuable native wild species, normally small mammals and birds, which need protection against predation by indoor/outdoor cats.

For example, New Zealand is a country with a low human population and suburban many environments which appear to be ideal for the indoor/outdoor domestic cat. There is plenty of space to wander around in and it appears to be relatively safe from road traffic accidents. The environment encourages cat owners to adopt the indoor/outdoor feline lifestyle.

But New Zealand had a remarkable birdlife which has evolved without apex predators. Introduced domestic cats are a particular hazard to these birds. The authorities in both New Zealand and Australia are very switched on to the idea of regulating cat ownership.

This is very different to what you find in Europe and America. Dogs have been subjected to much more regulation than cats because they are more dangerous to humans than cats. Dogs are regulated through licensing for example to protect humans whereas the future of cats might be that they are registered in a central government database to protect wildlife.

Through registration and obligatory microchipping, the owner of an individual cat which has killed a protected native species can be identified and punished. That is the modus operandi (MO) of the cat registration scheme.

Researching the topic of obligatory cat registration is quite difficult mainly because there are no federal laws regarding mandatory registration or desexing of cats at the date of this article. This is all down to states, provinces and local authorities introducing their own laws. Therefore, they are fragmented which makes things complicated.

However, I believe that there are only two major places (jurisdictions) other local councils where mandatory domestic cat registration is in place and these are:

  1. West Australia
  2. Australian Capital Territory

Australian local authorities controlling cat ownership

There has been a gradual encroachment on cat ownership freedoms by Australia’s local authorities as seen in the chart below:

The percentages of local councils that use each of the cat management actions. Elizabeth Lindsay - Threatened Species Recovery Hub
The percentages of local councils that use each of the cat management actions. Elizabeth Lindsay – Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

Tasmania

Tasmania is close to enacting legislation to make it obligatory to register your cat but it is not in place as yet. Registration of cats is not required in Tasmania unless it has been introduced by a local authority. However, in Tasmania, since March 2022 it’s been an offence to breed cats unless the person is a registered breeder or holds a conditional cat breeding permit.

Tasmania also has the Cat Management Act 2009 and the Cat Management Regulations 2012. The former states that a person will not be permitted to keep more than four cats over the age of four months on individual property. There will be other provisions but it is an act which controls cat ownership to a certain extent. It is government intervention in cat ownership which is unusual. The Cat Management Regulations 2012 applies to “cat management facilities”.

Australian Capital Territory

They lead the way on government intervention of cat ownership; to restrict cat ownership. To manage it to protect wildlife. They also claim that their legislation will help Canberra’s cats live longer and healthier lives. I have taken ACT as the paradigm example of cat ownership restrictions through legislation.

It is the full package of controls of a cat ownership:

  • Obligatory registration of all domestic cats within the jurisdiction
  • Obligatory cat containment over all of Canberra
  • Obligatory sterilisation. Section 74 of the Domestic Animals Act 2000 makes it an offence to own an unsterilised cat over three months of age without a permit.
  • Obligatory microchipping

Domestic cats born before July 1, 2022 that are aged over eight weeks must be registered and this can be done without charge until July 1, 2023. For cats born from July 1, 2022 there will also be annual registration and a charge of $57.55 or $20.70 for concession card holders. Registration is renewed annually.

Cat containment has been extended across ACT for cats born on or after July 1, 2022. This means keeping your cat on your premises 24-7. Confinement or containment fences in backyards or courtyards are allowable. And so are catios.

Cats born before July 1, 2022 are still allowed to roam unless they live in one of the 17 currently declared cat containment suburbs.

They will introduce penalties for failing to register. The maximum penalty for breach of cat containment is 10 penalty points or $300.

Enforcement

The ACT information sheets spell out the law but of course they don’t address the issue of enforcement. The difficulty with this law is enforcing it. And without proper enforcement the law becomes worse than useless. I have a question mark hanging over ACT’s full package of cat controls. In the long term, is it going to work satisfactorily?

Glimpsing the future?

ACT provides us with a glimpse into the future of cat ownership. This is the way it is going. The world is creeping towards it. There is obviously a huge divide between developing countries and developed countries. You can see the full spectrum. In developing countries cat ownership is extremely laissez-faire by which I mean anything goes. There are huge numbers of community cats in India for example. The same applies to Pakistan. Community cats are ultimately a failure in domestic cat ownership.

They don’t have homes. No one’s really caring for their health through veterinary treatments although they are often fed by the community. But this is not what cat domestication should be. It is highly unregulated and because of very poor concerns about sterilisation, community cats breed which exacerbates the problem.

Historically cats have been untouched by legislation. For example, domestic cats can’t be trespassers and therefore their owner can’t be vicariously responsible for the trespassing of their cat. They can go where they like when they like. This annoys some people. It is in complete contrast to dogs.

But as the world is becoming more concerned about the environment through global warming. And as the world is becoming more concerned about the conservation of wildlife species because of human activities destroying wildlife, some jurisdictions are putting pressure on cat owners to confine them such as ACT.

It is much easier for humans to enact legislation to control domestic cats that it is to do the same thing to control humans.

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