While many shelters have continued to improve their strategies to reduce the numbers of abandoned and euthanased animals in Australia (see individual Activity/Campaign reports from relevant member groups), there has been increasing involvement and progress towards resolving the issues at state and national levels in the past year.
The 2nd National Summit to End Companion Animal Overpopulation, organized by AWL Qld and NDN, was held in October 2007, with 100 delegates, representing over 50 different groups, and the full range of stakeholders (vets, breeders, pet industry, pounds, shelters, state government) from almost all Australian states and territories and New Zealand. Michael Mountain, founder of Best Friends Society which runs one of the largest sanctuaries in the USA, and founder of the No More Homeless Pets movement, was the international guest speaker, addressing ‘Ending Euthanasia in Whole Communities’ and ‘Humane Management of Feral Cats’.
The resolutions build on the 2006 Summit Resolutions:
- The formation of a Holistic Cat Policy Development Group to look at the prevention of domestic cats entering the free-roaming cat population, the prevention of breeding in free-roaming cats, and the care and management of free roaming cats. This group, it was discussed, should include representatives from all the major bodies who have involvement with companion animals and management of “feral” animals as well as psychologists who are involved in the human-animal relationship which impacts on how cats are cared for and managed.
- The refinement of national data to be gathered and consultation to determine capacity to gather this data.
Full conference papers can be accessed at www.ndn.org.au
The Australian Animal Welfare Strategy ‘Companion Animal Working Group’ has been working on a number of strategies this year. Unfortunately, they have not been able to solve one of the biggest problems – the lack of any federal companion animal political structure (i.e. there is no Ministerial Council) and so this issue is primarily being advanced on a State by State basis.
State Progress – The following is a brief summary of State Progress:
ACT (Ian Baird)
Following a major review, the ACT’s amended Domestic Animals Act 2000 commenced on 2nd May 2008. Key amendments included:
- compulsory microchipping of cats and dogs through licensing of privately-run animal registries (to be in place for dogs of all ages by May 2011),
- compulsory desexing of cats from 3 months (dogs still 6 months) and
- lifetime registration of dogs replacing annual registration.
Compliance with the new legislation now needs to be monitored before its success in changing behaviour can be assessed.
The $30,000 communications strategy to introduce the Act to the Canberra community is nearing completion and includes a modified version of the AWL Qld DVD “Caring Responsibly for Your Dog & Cat”, plus supporting booklets and brochures. A forthcoming ‘Dogs in the Park Day ‘ will be used to launch the new package either in November 2008 or in the early 2009, as the imminent ACT election on 18 October affects the official launch date.
There are two cat containment suburbs in Canberra requiring cats to be kept indoors or in cat enclosures in the backyard at all times , and there is emerging community interest in declaring other new residential areas adjacent to nature reserves and in new development areas generally as cat containment areas.
Northern Territory (Julia Hardaker AMRRIC)
The NT Super Shire has recently come into effect. A core ‘service deliverable’ for each shire includes Animal Welfare and Control. The budgets for this important service are very small and there are great challenges ahead for the Shires. Most Shires are opting to tender the services to private veterinary services.
AMRRIC has raised concern with the NT Minister for Local Government regarding this approach as they are concerned about an overall decrease in the welfare of animals due to inadequate service provision. AMRRIC has asked the NT Minister to address the AMRRIC Conference on the 14th October to inform delegates and members on the current status of program approaches.
NSW (Kristina Vesk – Cat Protection Society of NSW)
Independent NSW State MP Clover Moore’s Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill 2007 is still awaiting an outcome with many Members of Parliament now more aware, and politically involved, and hope that some positive developments may come from it. The Bill proposes ending the sale of mammals in pet shops and markets unless they are refuge/pound animals being rehomed, ending advertising of mammals for sale, prohibiting people under 16 purchasing an animal, requiring provision of information on basic husbandry requirements and allowing only recognized breeders to sell mammals.
The NSW economy is having a huge impact on companion animals due to a housing crisis, lack of rental accommodation and reduced incomes leading to more relinquishment of pets and fewer adoptions. Because of the high rental demand, more landlords and strata corporations are less friendly to pets. This is proving a great challenge to address the availability of accommodation.
Queensland (Joy Verrinder – AWL Qld)
AWL Qld has been working steadily for six years with stakeholders to achieve consensus and a unified approach in Queensland, to increase community and government involvement and progress state legislation including desexing and identification prior to sale or transfer, to prevent the euthanasia of healthy and treatable cats and dogs.
In 2007/8, there has been significant progress made with State Government involvement in managing unwanted cats and dogs in Queensland, with both relevant State Government departments (Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and Dept of Local Government Sport and Recreation) working in partnership developing solutions.
The results of the Qld Government Discussion Paper “Managing Unwanted Cats and Dogs” were released in Oct/Nov 2007. There were over 5000 responses showing strong support for compulsory registration, microchipping and desexing:
- 91% support state-wide registration of cats and dogs
- 95% support state-wide microchipping of cats and dogs
- 82% support compulsory desexing.
The Qld Government commissioned an independent report released in February 2008 on the need for and effectiveness of education, registration, identification and desexing, including the validity and usefulness of early age desexing.
On 8th June, 2008, Premier Anna Bligh strongly stated that as a society we have to do better in our management of cats and dogs ‘to prevent their senseless killing’. She announced a $500,000 package to include:
$380 000 to be provided to 3 local councils who volunteer innovative pilot programs to trial a variety of methods . This could include “registration software, working with local vets to provide discounted or free desexing, offering heavy registration discounts, or even introducing by-laws that make desexing compulsory.”
- $75 000 for a State- wide Community Education Campaign “CAT SMART” between August and December 2008 to be delivered in close consultation with AWL and RSPCA, to promote TAG, DESEX AND KEEP YOUR CAT SAFE.
- $45 000 for a Code of Practice for Pet Shops, setting standards for the care and management of animals at point-of-sale.
- Legislation introduced by the end of 2008 to make local registration, and micro-chipping at point-of-sale compulsory in all parts of the state.
AWL QLD has been represented on the various State Government committees progressing the above legislation.
While the Code of Practice for Pet Shops is only voluntary at this stage, it sets standards that are quite progressive. It includes:
- All cats and male dogs, including kittens and puppies, should be desexed prior to sale from between 2-4 months of age. Decisions on early age desexing of female puppies should be made in consultation with a veterinarian, to consider the reported increased risk of urinary incontinence against the more life-threatening increased risk of mammary cancer if a female dog is not desexed prior to their first heat, and the risk of unwanted litters.
- All cats and dogs should be microchipped and registered on a microchip database at point of sale
- Sourcing of animals from breeders that have accepted standards such as those set by the Canine Control Council or Queensland Feline Association or by government
- Minimum age for acquisition for sale – 8 weeks
- Animals not accepted for sale to be redirected to a pound or shelter such as AWL or RSPCA
Grant Robb of the Animal Welfare League of South Australia advises that there is a discussion paper currently out for proposed legislative changes which can be viewed on www.dogsncats.asn.au
A Tasmanian Government Position Paper “Cat Management in Tasmania: Taking the Initiative” was released on 14th August 2008 for public discussion (submissions now closed). It proposes to reduce the impacts of stray and feral cats and address the animal welfare issues through better management of domestic cats. It indicates the preferred position of the government as mandatory desexing and microchipping of cats by the age of 4 months or when it changes hands, whichever comes first, thus requiring a cat must be desexed and microchipped prior to sale, to be phased in over 4 years, a register of cat breeders, legislation to underpin this approach, and clarify the status of individuals and organizations that trap or control feral cats on private and/or public land, and promoting responsible cat ownership, including advice on what to do with unwanted cats. There appears to have been a positive response from the public.
Katrina McDonald Acting Manager, Tasmanian Canine Defence League (Hobart Dogs Home) reports that a review of the Dog Control Act has been conducted and should be completed by November. This most likely will lead to the inclusion of compulsory microchipping of dogs.
The implementation of the Who’s for Cats Campaign in Victoria has been a major initiative of the Department of Primary Industries and a large group of animal welfare agencies and the AVA. It has been promoted through various media e.g. websites, TV, newspapers and encourages the public to take full ownership of cats including desexing, registration, confinement and training, and to take action to adopt a stray they may be feeding (once it is determined it is unowned through their local council) or hand it in to the local pound or shelter.
(Tracy Helman – DPI Victoria) – the past year has seen from Victoria:
- The launch of two new codes of practice for the private keeping of dogs and the private keeping of cats;
- Some minor legislative changes to Domestic Animals Act – the main event being the regulation of the permanent identification to prescribed class of animal (and the addition of horses to the prescribed class – so now dogs, cats and horses are prescribed) – this does not make microchipping of horses compulsory – but if they are micro-chipped there are requirements to comply with.
- Another minor legislative changes were made to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act the main change being to create offences for the breeding and displaying of animals with heritable defects – e.g. for dogs: Von Willebrand’s Disease (VWD), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL), Collie Eye Anamoly (CEA/CH), Hereditary Cataract (HC); and for cats: Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), Mutations causing aplasia or hypoplasia of any long bone and Folded ears due to osteochondrodysplasia.
Cat Crisis Coalition (report by Carole Webb)
The Cat Crisis Coalition (CCC) has continued its campaign for compulsory desexing of all cats over 3 months of age throughout Victoria in the 2007-8 year. The main focus in the last twelve months has been the lobbying of all 79 municipalities as they complete their ‘Domestic Animal Management Plans’ which are due to be submitted to the Victorian State Government by November 2008. These plans are required to address the cat overpopulation and high euthanasia rates within each municipality and Councils have the power and ability to introduce compulsory desexing via these plans.
The CCC has therefore focused its efforts on this aspect with some 43 Councils expected to take up compulsory desexing in some shape or form – whether this is for all new registrations, for cats from 6 months of age or for all cats from the age of 3 months, or in Year 1,2 or 3 of the plan (i.e. a staged introduction). The CCC then intends to return to the State Government and lobby for compulsory desexing to be introduced statewide given that over 50% of local governments will have introduced it. Compulsory microchipping for all new registrations was also introduced statewide in 2008 so, although progress is slow, it is being made.
And… Pam Weaver of Save a Dog Scheme reports that the Stonnington Council’s Animal Management Plan includes a ‘no kill’ vision statement!
Western Australia (Roz Robinson of Cat Haven WA)
A change of State Government in WA has changed the landscape, but the new Premier is the ‘local MP’ for the area in which the Cat Haven is situated, and the Haven’s co patron is also a new minister.
One of the largest councils here, City of Joondalup, is looking at substantial legislation for cat control including mandatory desexing and micro chipping for all registered cats other than breeders (see – http://www.joondalup.wa.gov.au/CaqMS/filedisplay.asp?file=1290 )
We had our first ‘cat symposium’ here in WA in August which was well attended, and there will soon be a follow up meeting.
The Cat Haven is set to establish a foster care program (similar to the AWL Qld scheme) and new adoption centre – hopefully by the (kitten) season.