Native Animal Welfare

All Canberra suburbs to contain new cats from July 1, 2022

The ACT is introducing citywide containment for all new cats from the middle of next year.

Currently, all cats in new Canberra suburbs have to be kept indoors or in cat runs at all times.

But under the ACT government’s plan, announced today, all new cats obtained by owners after July 1, 2022 will have to be contained, regardless of which suburb they live in.

The ACT Cat Plan 2021-2031, developed in consultation with cat owners, environmental groups and the broader community, states the policy will “help cats live longer and healthier lives while better protecting native wildlife”.

One of the plan’s first actions is to introduce the citywide containment requirements for new cats.

ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel explained that “grandfathering arrangements” would apply for cats owned before July 1 2022, which means that already-owned cats do not need to be contained if their owners do not live in an existing cat containment suburb.

“Outside of declared suburbs, cat containment will only apply to new cats, because we understand that existing cats and their owners may not be prepared or used to containment,” Mr Steel said.

Part of the new cat containment policy also includes an amendment to allow owners in cat containment suburbs to walk their cats on a lead, which is currently prohibited. There are 17 cat containment suburbs in the ACT.

The government says it will educate pet owners to make sure they understand their obligations, but the maximum penalty for breaching the laws is $1,600.

“The ACT is a leader in introducing cat containment,” Mr Steel said.

“Some other jurisdictions have cat curfews at particular times of the day to also help protect the environment.”

Eight strategies to be rolled out over 10 years

Alongside the new rules about cat containment, the plan puts forward seven other strategies — which the government says will be progressively rolled out over the next 10 years — to encourage responsible cat ownership and reduce the impact of feral cats.

Among these strategies is a compulsory requirement for new cat owners to register their cats, in the same way that dogs are now required to be registered annually in the ACT.

From July 1 2022, new cat owners will have to pay a once-off fee when they first register their cat, and then update their details annually. Existing cat owners have to register their cat, but there will be no charge.

“The ACT government wants to minimise the impacts of domestic cats on native wildlife by reducing the number of feral, unowned and semi-owned cats through more de-sexing, improved domestic cat welfare and management practices, better ways to identify lost cats and reunite them with their owners,” Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said.

“Every year, free-roaming but owned Canberra cats are estimated to prey on 61,000 native birds, 2,000 native mammals, 30,000 native reptiles and 6,000 native frogs.

Michelle Robertson from RSPCA ACT said they were looking forward to “a coordinated approach to cat containment across the territory”.

“We look forward to working with the government to implement the plan to improve cat welfare and protect native wildlife. We also look forward to working with the community to increase responsible cat ownership and improve cat and human wellbeing,” she said.

The Conservation Council ACT Region also welcomed the plan, but said the cat containment policy could go further.

“It is very disappointing that the new measures won’t come into force until July 1, 2022, allowing more than a year of newly-acquired cats to be free to roam and hunt for the duration of their lives,” executive director Helen Oakey said.

“Other measures in the plan are welcome, including the requirement for cat registration which will help to identify and return lost cats to their owners. Microchipping and registration of pet cats will also be crucial to ensure compliance when cat containment is implemented.”

The ACT Cat Plan 2021–31 and the community consultation report is available on the government’s YourSay website.

Source: ABC News