A German town, Walldorf, ordered residents to lock their cats indoors over the summer for the next three years or face a fine of €500. The move was designed to protect ground-nesting, endangered crested larks; particularly the hatchlings who are very vulnerable. Fines could rise as high as €50,000. Ornithologists were clearly delighted at the move. For example, Peter Marra one of the authors of the 2016 book Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, said that he was really glad it’s happening. No doubt he is hoping for the policy to be adopted elsewhere.
It would seem that this domestic cat lockdown is designed to occur over the breeding season because people in Walldorf in south-west Germany are now allowed to release their cats to the outdoors if they are kept on a leash no more than 6 feet in length. Cats had previously been confined to the indoors for three months.
They say that cats will be allowed to roam free from one minute past midnight today! Woosh, there’ll be a mad rush to release them at midnight.
During domestic cat confinement in this jurisdiction, if a cat escaped, citizens were told to call a special hotline and then find and detain the offending feline. Spying on neighbours? This is the difficulty with these policies: enforcement.
The authorities have been trying to protect the crested lark. The species is endangered in the state of Baden-Württemberg, and wider Germany.
Apparently, there are just three breeding pairs left in Walldorf. Birds that hatched in the spring are now developed sufficiently to be able to escape the attentions of domestic cats it is thought which allows authorities to lift this all out ban on wandering cats.
But as mentioned in the opening paragraph, the plan to confine domestic cats will continue during forthcoming bird breeding seasons and therefore the lockdown is expected to return next spring and in subsequent years.
I believe this policy in Germany is the first of its kind in Europe and possibly in the West. This sort of domestic cat lockdown has occurred and continues to occur in certain Australian jurisdictions where they are particularly concerned about predation on native species. Ironically in Australia they appear to be more concerned about small mammals and marsupials, which are particularly vulnerable to feral cat predation, rather than birds which are more able to escape.