Parliament’s Environment Committee has recommended that a national cat management law be enacted, requiring that companion cats be microchipped, registered and desexed (with exemptions for registered cat breeders).
The Committee was considering a petition presented by Erica Rowlands in 2021, and heard submissions from the Ministry for Primary Industries and several other organisations, many of which were part of, or supportive of, the New Zealand Cat Management Strategy Group. The group promotes responsible cat ownership, balancing the views of cat owners and environmentalists. It collaborated with other organisations to produce a report in 2020 which contains recommendations for humanely managing cats to protect both cat welfare and the New Zealand environment.
In its report, the Committee stated:
We commend the petitioner and the other interested organisations that made submissions for their work and advocacy to improve the management of cats in New Zealand. We appreciate the companionship that pet cats provide to people. But we accept the evidence presented by submitters that the current, largely unregulated approach to cats does not serve the welfare of the large numbers of stray and feral cats. Moreover the stray and feral cat population decimates native wildlife.
We agree with submitters it is time to legislate a nationwide cat management framework based on the notion cats should be registered, desexed, and microchipped with appropriate exemptions. Such a framework already exists for dogs and we believe it is time to apply the same approach for cats. We consider that a nationally consistent approach to cat control would provide a more effective outcome than bylaws. Public education and gaining community support for change will need to go hand in hand with legislative and regulatory action but we note the significant and positive change in public attitudes to dog ownership since the enactment of the Dog Control Act in 1996.
In her petition, Ms Rowland noted the problems created by irresponsible cat owners:
It is widely known that cats cause a problem for native species, and that rescue groups face relentless battle against the effects of irresponsible owners. We have committed as a nation to invest in the goal of being predator free by 2050, but with no improvement in sight for the management of pet cats, or the elimination of feral populations. Requiring cats to be registered and desexed will reduce their populations, enforce responsible cat ownership, and protect our wildlife.
The Government was expected to respond to the Committee’s recommendation by 25 October, which is just 11 days after Election Day – so who knows what will happen.
The Committee noted in its report that the ACT Party does not believe that a national cat management framework is required.