WA Cat Act Year 5 - well what did you THINK would happen if you gave councils more powers to impound cats?

July 18, 2020

The City of Cockburn feels like it has a cat "problem". And following every other breathlessly enthusiastic, over-simplified "solution", is looking to strengthen their cat management laws, because that's almost certainly the answer.

"Cats could be… confined to their owner’s properties in an effort to curb feline impact on local fauna.

Cockburn council approved their draft Animal Management and Exercise Plan, which will include additional cat control measures, at their July meeting.

The measures stem from a report requested by councillor Phoebe Corke in March for the City to look at way to control roaming cats, including a potential total cat ban in new estates.
The City also recommended establishing cat management laws similar to those applying to dogs, such as requiring them to be retained with their owner’s property at all times, as soon as practicable and by no later than 2025."

This call to increase in cat laws comes just five-ish years after the 2014 WA Cat Act was introduced - the strongest cat laws in the country - which required everything that a cat-law advocate could have dreamed of;

  • it was enacted state-wide and every council was required to make provisions for it; to include it in their operations and to resource the enforcement of it. It was well-resourced by the state, with a $3.4m tax-payer funded gift to councils and local cat charities, to be used for both desexing programs and new cat pound facilities. Tens of millions of additional rate-payer funds were spent to overhaul and convert pounds to make them suitable for cats.
  • it was retroactive; ALL cats are subject to the laws. They are also extremely comprehensive with cats needing to be desexed, microchipped, to wear a collar and registration tag, be registered with the local council. Also includes a ‘breeder licence’ element with cat sellers required to microchip all cats, and desex (or provide voucher) before sale.
  • they gave animal agencies almost unprecedented powers. Authorised officers can now enter property, take photos and request paperwork… and all simply under the suspicion that a cat is being kept ‘illegally’. Cat pounds can have a cat microchipped and sterilised at the owner’s cost, while the fines for breaching the laws are considerable – $200 per offence, and up to $5,000.

Having nailed every element of a cat law advocate's dreams, and given rangers an enormous swath of powers, the laws should have done what the advocates for the laws said they would do; reduce impoundment (and the subsequent killing) of cats.

So how has Cockburn done in implementing the laws they were already given?


"Cockburn rangers and community safety manager Michael Emery said according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics stats, on cat ownership, only 17 per cent within the City were registered..."

17%... in five years. Or to put it another way - 83% non-compliance.

The one arguable benefit to cat welfare, may have been an increase in cat registrations and - by extension - an increase in cats reclaimed from the pound and a reduction in killing. You know, the entire purported reason for the Cat Act. And yet, its almost like they haven't been enforcing the already comprehensive laws they've been given... but nah. MOAHW LAWS YAY!

Cockburn Council offer a limited amount of information to the public about how they process cats.

Cat Microchip/registered: owner is contacted, cat to be collected from Cockburn Operations Centre and pays minimal housing fee, no infringement
No microchip: taken to Cat Haven to be potentially rehomed
Feral: euthanised at Henderson Waste Facility
Budgets: trapping programs are costly (>$700 to trap and hold a single cat).

And from their annual reports for the past few years, we can see how many cats they have impounded and (at least until 2016, when they seemed to stop counting ranger killings) their outcomes...

Reference: Cockburn City Council Annual Reports (2013 - 2019)
I suspect the ‘feral euthanasia’ intakes have been dropped from Council’s statistics from 2016 onwards, when in 2017 there was a large general sweep of cat impoundments.

The Cat Act was purported to increase microchipping and registration, which was supposed to increase the number of cats reclaimed and therefore reduce cat euthanasia.

Cockburn Council has taken these laws to the dizzying heights of 17%, but how are other Councils doing? Unfortunately no data is being collected from local councils on same, but we do have data from the Cat Haven - a major supporter of the laws.

Below is total intakes at the Cat Haven over time. Note that despite these laws being in place for five years* the intakes have surged to levels higher than 2008.

While outcomes show the impact of the WA Cat Act on reclaims;

Instead of around 100 cats being reclaimed annually from a little over 8,000 cats, we now have a bit shy of 200 cats or so being reclaimed from 8,000 cat impounds… or A DOUBLING OF RECLAIMS YOU GUYS! = SUCCESS!!!

All the Cat Laws in WA and we’ve increased reclaims from 1.2% to about 1.9%. I mean, go us.

But more importantly, we’ve empowered councils like the City of Cockburn to take the existing laws that do frack all to protect cats, and turbo charge them to confinement and the wholesale slaughter (and likely, not even counting “feral” cats as deemed by unscientific temperament tests in unmonitored council depos). GREAT WORK TEAM!

Oh, you don’t think that’s a great result? Well, I mean this is what Cat Laws were designed to do. Increasing powers to rangers to impound cats, has never lead to less impounding of cats… to suggest otherwise is illogical. Did we think when we gave councils powers, they wouldn’t use them? Or practically immediately look to increase those same powers?

Are you still lobbying for more powers for rangers to trap and impound cats?


*no 2019 stats available

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