WA Cat Act – are you a responsible cat owner and do you know what it means for feral cat trapping?

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 From 1 November 2013, the Western Australian Cat Act 2011 took effect and it now requires that all cats that have reached 6 months of age to be:

  • microchipped;
  • sterilized; and
  • registered with the relevant local government.

Cats are required to wear a collar with their registration tag to ensure that owned cats can be easily identified and returned to their owner and Local Government are able to seize cats.

Why do we need the legislation?

There is a large population of unwanted and feral cats in Western Australia, and figures show that approximately 5,000 cats are euthanased each year. The purpose of the Cat Act 2011 was to introduce measures to reduce the large number of stray cats being euthanased each year, to encourage responsible cat ownership, and to provide for better management of the unwanted impacts of cats on the community and environment.

Before the introduction of the Cat Act 2011, the approach for the management of cats was for local governments to establish cat control local laws under the Local Government Act 1995. There are two indicators that suggest this regulatory approach was not achieving a desired outcome:

  • there remains a significant number of unwanted cats received by cat and animal welfare organisations which are ultimately euthanased; and
  • cat control local laws had been enacted by only a small number of local governments in Western Australia (i.e. 13%).

While this could indicate that for many local governments, cats were not an issue for their communities, with only a small proportion of local governments regulating the keeping of cats, the effectiveness of a local government enacting a cat local law will be diminished if neighbouring councils do not have similar cat control requirements.

The new cat laws are not only about encouraging responsible pet ownership, they are also aimed at reducing the number of unwanted cats in the community and the number that are euthanased each year. Micro-chipping and registration will also increase the chances your cat is returned to you if it becomes lost.

The basic premise behind the Cat Act 2011 is that by requiring all owned cats to be identified, any unowned cats can be captured and either re-homed or destroyed. In addition, the requirement for all cats to be sterilised will reduce the number of cats born to backyard breeders. The exception enables registered cat breeders and there are penalties (i.e. up to $5,000) for people breeding cats that are not registered.

The Cat Act 2011 is administered and enforced by local governments, and as is the case with other legislation, its success depends on the level to which this is done and the support from the community.

If local governments are proactive in the enforcement, the Act will result in unowned cats being removed from the community and thus providing an environment for native animals to survive.

When caught, a cat will be impounded for seven days if the owner can be identified but only three days if no owner is found before either being rehomed or euthanased. What is unknown to most in the community is that you need to be an ‘authorised person’ to complete feral animal control programs which target cats. Authorised persons are appointed by the local government, but do not have to be a local government employee. For example the local government may appoint rangers from external organisations (i.e. contract rangers, Cat Haven) as well as contractors doing feral cat control trapping in public areas. However, whilst these authorised persons or groups can assist with the implementation of the legislation, only local government employees (who are authorised persons) can issue infringement notices. It is now illegal for anyone who is not specifically appointed as an ‘authorised person’ by the local council to capture cats in public areas. Authorised persons may cause a cat to be destroyed if there are reasonable grounds to believe it is a feral cat, is dangerous or diseased and at the request of the owner.

If you have queries about the Cat Act 2011 or think that there are unregistered cats (i.e. stray or feral cats) in your local area, contact your local council and request that they get an authorised contractor to capture the cats to determine if they are domestic cats without tags wandering away from their house or are truly stray or feral.

Everyone can play a part in reducing the number of cats that are roaming the streets and local bushland areas and in turn provide bushland that is safe for native fauna to live.

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If you are interested in reading further you can download the legislation here. WA Cat Act 2011; WA Cat Regulations 2012; and Cat (Uniform Local Provisions) Regulations 2013

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Comments

4 Responses to “WA Cat Act – are you a responsible cat owner and do you know what it means for feral cat trapping?”

  1. Toby on February 5th, 2016 6:08 am

    Its great that cats have to be sterilised by 6 months, but in terms of implementation wouldn’t it be more effective if cat breeders were required to sell kittens already sterilised. Leaving the responsibility of sterilisation up to the cat buyer may mean the odd cat goes unsterilised and remains a nuisance.

  2. Scott Thompson on February 5th, 2016 9:27 am

    Thanks Toby. It is a requirement under the Act that all cats are sterilised and microchipped before the point of sale, however, if a cat is too young to be sterilised, breeders and pet shops will be able to provide a prepaid voucher to the purchaser to have the sterilisation done before the cat reaches 6 months of age. The applies whether the cat is sold or given away to someone. It applies to every kitten/cat and not just to those from shops. The prepaid voucher is typically through organisations such as the Cat Haven or another local veterinarian.

  3. Dave on February 9th, 2016 2:36 pm

    Legally, what methods can be used by private landowners to humanely euthanise a feral cat?
    Regards Dave

  4. Scott Thompson on February 16th, 2016 1:00 pm

    There are no legal methods that can be used by landowners to humanely euthanise a feral cat unless you have been authorised by the local government in the area the cat has been captured. If you inadvertently capture a cat that you suspect of being a stray or feral and it is in the metropolitan area, you can take it to the cat haven or contact the local government rangers. If you are in a rural or remote area you are best to contact the local government or Department of Agriculture and Food as they administer the other relevant legislation. They will then ask you what facilities you have available for euthanasia and provide the best advice.

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