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Nelson City Council Polls Public Support For Companion Cat Nuisance Management

Nelson City Council is considering a cat management bylaw as a way of addressing some of the companion cat nuisance problems in Whakatū Nelson.

Before Council proceeds with work on the proposed bylaw, we would like to gather community feedback on cat ownership and nuisance in Nelson and find out whether there is support for its introduction, and which measures the community would like to see included in the bylaw.

Elected members requested Council staff collect options for consulting on a cat management bylaw at a meeting in October 2023, that could require mandatory microchipping, microchip registration, and desexing for all companion cats in the region. The first step in that process is to engage with the Nelson community to assess whether the public support such a move.

There is already nationwide movement towards greater cat controls and measures, and the Parliamentary Environment Select Committee endorsed positive action last year when it recommended the establishment of a nationwide cat management framework.

Until Government provides direction on companion cat management, one option available to Council is a bylaw that could require mandatory microchipping, microchip registration and desexing for all companion cats in the region. This is different to feral and stray cat management to protect biodiversity, which can be dealt with through Council’s Regional Pest Management Plan under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Microchips must be registered with the New Zealand Companion Animal Register (NZCAR), an online service provided by registered charity, Companion Animals NZ. This step is key in promoting responsible cat ownership, as it ensures that the cat’s microchip number is linked to its owner’s contact information.

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Nationally, cat overpopulation results in thousands of unwanted cats and kittens being abandoned, killed inhumanely or left with welfare organisations each year. Desexing cats is an effective way to help lessen this problem. To prevent unwanted kittens, early-age desexing can be undertaken provided the young cat is in good health.

From Tuesday 28 May until midnight Sunday 23 June, Nelson residents are invited to have their say on companion cats on the Shape Nelson website so that Council can gauge the suitability of a bylaw option.

Mandy Bishop, Group Manager Environmental Management says that a bylaw could significantly benefit both the feline population and the broader community.

“It’s crucial that we hear from our residents and understand their perspectives before moving forward. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of cat ownership in the world, so it’s a decision that will affect all of us. We are committed to taking an approach that balances the actions requested by our elected members with the wishes of the Nelson community.

“Any cat control initiative in Nelson aims to enhance the welfare of cats, improve their chances of being returned if lost, and support responsible pet ownership.

"Microchipping is a safe, permanent way to identify pets and link them to their owners. Unlike collars and tags, which can be removed or lost, microchips provide a reliable means of identification.”

By mandating microchipping and ensuring that all cats have a registered microchip, Council hopes to address issues related to stray and lost cats, reduce the impact on wildlife, and assist in reuniting lost cats with their owners. This would also help to reduce the pressure on SPCA and vets when a lost cat is held with them whilst the owners are being found.

“Stray and lost cats can be repeat offenders when it comes to the sort of behaviours that communities can find frustrating,” says Mandy. “The idea is that microchipping will reduce the amount of time cats are lost for and the number of strays. This will have a knock-on effect in reducing nuisance behaviour.”

Feedback can be provided by visiting the Shape Nelson website and completing the online survey at shape.nelson.govt.nz/Proposed-companion-cat-management until midnight, Sunday 23 June 2024.

All feedback will be reviewed and considered before a decision is made by Council later in the year. If the bylaw is agreed as the best approach, it will be drafted and circulated for public feedback.

Numerous councils around New Zealand have introduced bylaws requiring that companion cats be microchipped and the chip registered with NZCAR; desexing and/or limiting numbers of companion cats.

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