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.

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:

Australian council misguided in trying to protect wildlife from cats

Confused and potentially criminal attempt by Australian local authority to protect wildlife from cat predation

The war against domestic and feral cats in Australia continues unabated. It looks like a war to me and in ...
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Feral cat of Australia

Complex interplay between Australia’s feral cats, invasive rabbits and native mammals

There is a confusing (to me) and complex interplay between the feral cats on the Australian continent, the rabbits upon ...
Read More
Land clearance in Australia causing huge loss of wildlife

Catastrophic loss of wildlife hits Australia. Cause? Humans.

Land clearing was given as the primary cause of wildlife losses in Australia in the Australia state of the environment ...
Read More
Grey squirrel in my garden

Scientists have designed a contraceptive to limit gray squirrel numbers so why not feral cats?

On reading the story about the creation of a contraceptive specifically designed to reduce the population size of gray squirrels ...
Read More
Kangaroo Island dunnart and stray cat

Independent newspaper’s BIASED headline about the feral cat threat to the Kangaroo Island dunnart

NEWS AND COMMENT-KANGAROO ISLAND, AUSTRALIA: The headline on the online version of the Independent newspaper is: "Tiny marsupial that survived ...
Read More
Aboriginal Australians with the feral cat they killed

Hypocritical Australians are the most destructive non-native species on their continent

I've recently been doing research on whether owning a caracal is illegal in Australia (I shouldn't have bothered). It was ...
Read More
Australian feral cat kills a venomous mulga snake

True feral cats are smarter than domestic cats

True feral cats are smarter than domestic cats. This gives them an advantage in survival. I'm thinking here of the ...
Read More
Enriched home for indoor cats

The big flaw that is never admitted in keeping cats indoors full-time

NEWS AND COMMENT-AUSTRALIA: The Australian authorities have been disseminating negative propaganda about feral and domestic cats for years. The objective ...
Read More

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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2 Responses

  1. tamara beinlich says:

    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.

    • The problem is that they’ve let the so called ‘feral cat’ problem get out of control and now the only way forward is to kill them and it does not matter how cruelly it is done.

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