Reason why TNR is ‘illegal’ in Australia except for ACT (Australian Capital Territory)

For me, a person who is interested in TNR as a means of managing feral cats, it is interesting to read on the Internet that TNR is ‘banned’ or ‘illegal’ in Australia except for that small jurisdiction called ACT, which is a landlocked federal territory containing the national capital Canberra. ABC News says that ACT is the only Australian jurisdiction where the ‘feral cat management program trap, neuter, return is legal’. And I thought, what the hell is going on? Why is a process which is so popular in North America illegal in Australia?

Feral cat Australia
Feral cat Australia. Pic in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There are tens of thousands of volunteers in America working on TNR programs, managing feral cat colonies and doing a wonderful job. They both limit the creation of feral cats and gradually reduce their population size. They also do their best to make the lives of these abandon cats far more pleasant. They deserve praise.

It isn’t that TNR is specifically banned in Australia. There are no laws which state that “TNR is banned in this territory”. But there are laws across the continent of Australia which make it an offence to return unknown cats to where they came from after they’ve been neutered or spayed. It’s an offence under either domestic animal welfare legislation relating to the abandonment of cats or bio security and land management legislation relating to cats as pest species. It is simply that TNR appears to have been inadvertently or deliberately caught up in legislation concerning abandoned or stray cats.

The information comes from an article/study called Cat Colony Caretakers’ Perceptions of Support and Opposition to TNR from the School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland and the Australian Pat Welfare Foundation published on the website.

I have stated before in another article that TNR has been resolutely rejected by the jurisdictions of the various states and territories of Australia as a means of humanely dealing with the feral cat problem. As a consequence, they turn to the only alternative, namely the mass extermination of an animal they consider to be a pest and vermin. They conveniently erase from the national memory the fact that Australians created the feral cat through carelessness and that they should be domestic cats cared for in pleasant homes. The issue of treating the cats decently is ignored.

RELATED: Attitude of Australian state governments towards feral cats indirectly promotes cat cruelty as evidenced in Perth

The study referred to tells me that an attempt was made to legalise TNR in NSW (New South Wales) through the Animal Welfare (Population Control Programs) Bill, but it failed in that state’s legislature. It didn’t get past the first reading and the bill has lapsed.

There have been no prosecutions for participating in TNR activities although there have been prosecutions for feeding urban stray cats.

The Australian state with the most restrictive legislation on this topic is Queensland. In that state only cats which are “owned” are considered to be domestic. It is illegal to feed, remove for adoption or release non-domestic cats. This includes stray cats in the urban environment. They are considered to be “restricted matter”. This phrase turns a sentient being into an inanimate object to be erased from the environment. How and when did Australians become so callous about animal welfare?

RELATED: How many feral cats are there in Australia?

Whenever TNR is conducted by volunteers in Australia it is often undertaken secretly because of the fear of prosecution. There appears to be a lack of support for TNR even from animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA and the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA). As at March 2019 the AVA’s policy on TNR is that it is ineffective “under Australian conditions”. They say that the cats continue to be a “significant public nuisance” under TNR programs. And that the cats don’t have a good level of welfare when released. And of course, they object to the fact that the cats can still hunt precious native wildlife.

Below are some more articles on Australia and their dreaded feral cat:

6 thoughts on “Reason why TNR is ‘illegal’ in Australia except for ACT (Australian Capital Territory)”

  1. Its because the counclis care more abour $$$’s than native wildlife. Georges River council here in Sydney doesn’t even have a f’ing shelter no more and we have one of the city’s largest bush parks full of birds, possums and what not. Am so disgusted with their attitude.

    • You can’t keep and house most australian feral cats. They are different from domestic cats that have just been abandoned/lost. TNR scientifically does not effectively help population control and does not remove the immediate threat feral cats pose to hundreds of native, endangered, or critically endangered Australian animals. I agree that the local councils can do more, but funding and allowing TNR programs wouldn’t help reduce local populations, or save local wildlife

      • TNR would do it if it was extensive enough and well-funded by government. It would stabilise the feral cat population in certain areas. It would probably be as effective in protecting wildlife as the abjectly cruel methods currently employed by the Aussie authorities. Contraceptive use should not be written off. There are possibilities there.


  2. No wonder Australia has a feral cat problem. 13 years ago when I moved where I live now we must have had at least 200 cats on this 1/4 mile dirt country street. Me and 2 other ladies spayed and neutered almost all of them. It took 3 years to do it. 10 years later they’re all gone now but 2 old males we never caught. And we haven’t seen any kittens born here for years, only those dumped by people. I spay all females immediately that are dumped out here and males when I have extra money. Australia is ignorant causing their own problem by not seeing TNR as the right thing to do. How horrible and cruel of them to think just killing feral cats is the way to go. Jerks.


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