Low-hanging fruit: Pet cat containment a vital step to protect NSW’s wildlife

Nature Conservation Council

11th September, 2023

The Nature Conservation Council and the Invasive Species Council have today called on the NSW government to introduce clear laws to ensure pet cats are kept safe at home in order to save millions of native animals every year. The call comes in the wake of another 48 species added to the endangered species list and the release of an ambitious feral cat plan by the federal government.

Recently released research from the Australian National University has found that in the greater Sydney area alone there are approximately 1,086,676 pet cats. With around 71% of these being permitted to roam by their owners, this means that a shocking 66 million native animals are hunted and killed each year in Sydney.

“If the NSW Government doesn’t act on this, a quarter of a billion native animals will be killed in Sydney over the next four years” said Dr Brad Smith, Acting NCC CEO.

“Hundreds of thousands of roaming pet cats are sending our suburbs silent but, unlike in almost every other state, NSW councils cannot implement basic cat curfew due to rules due to barriers in archaic state laws.

“Owning a pet cat should come with clear responsibilities to ensure your pet is not roaming around killing our native birds, mammals, reptiles and frogs,” said Dr Smith.

NSW’s current laws not only allow cats to spend their evenings hunting and killing native animals, they actually prevent local councils from mandating that cats are contained. This means communities are powerless to institute one of the easiest and highest impact policies to protect their local ecology.

“Many of the actions required to protect our wildlife require complex legislative reforms and significant investment from the government. In contrast, by simply removing the barriers to local councils instituting cat containment we could save millions of native animals.

“We’re calling on NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe and Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig to sit down together and fix this.”

“Amending the law in NSW to permit local councils to implement 24/7 cat containment rules is a simple step that would have profound benefits for our native wildlife,” said Jack Gough, Advocacy Manager at the Invasive Species Council.

“Councils across the state are crying out for this amendment so that they can protect their local bushland from the enormous impacts of roaming pet cats.

“The law in NSW is a stark contrast to the ACT which requires residents to contain their cats, or in Victoria where nearly 50% of councils have introduced cat containment rules.

“Cat containment would be a win for cat owners too. The evidence is that pet cats that are responsibly kept at home can live up to 10 years longer than if they were free-roaming.”

“In addition to changes to the law for cat containment, we also need the government to boost funding for responsible pet ownership initiatives like subsidised desexing and a state-wide education campaign,” said Mr Gough.

The Nature Conservation Council and Invasive Species Council, along with Birdlife Australia, WIRES and the Australian Wildlife Society, are calling on the NSW Government to:

  1. Amend the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 to enable local governments to enforce anti roaming laws for pet cats at a local level.
  2. Allocate a minimum of $9 million to fund compliance, education, desexing, identification and registration programs.
  3. Encourage local governments to develop companion animal management plans.
  4. Develop a state-wide web resource for pet owners.
  5. Streamline pet identification and registration processes.
  6. Make desexing mandatory state-wide.

Statement ends

/Public Release. View in full here.