Councils seek more powers to control cats

New Zealand's mayors and councillors will ask the Government for more powers to control cats around the country - and they have backing from the country's veterinarians.

Passed with a very slim margin of 51 percent Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) voted to ask the Government to extend their options on mandatory bell-wearing, microchipping, desexing and registration of cats. 

Newly minted president of LGNZ Dunedin Mayor David Cull said it's about allowing councils to start a conversation about controlling cats if they are affecting wildlife.

"The situation at the moment is while councils have the power to control dogs they have absolutely no way to control cats unless they affect human health," he told The AM Show.

The remit "specifically acknowledged the value of companion cats to people, so it's not about trying to stop people owning cats in particular areas," he said.

"But we do need some controls, because feral cats and in some cases domesticated cats are a major threat to native wildlife."

A cat among the branches.
A cat among the branches. Photo credit: Newshub.

Mr Cull said Dunedin has had instances of people feeding feral cats, resulting in up to 50 or 60 cats in some areas.

"We need some tools, and that's what we're asking for," he said.

The local council remit has support from the New Zealand Veterinary Association, saying it would encourage responsible cat management. NZVA says responsible ownership includes the microchipping, registration and desexing of cats. 

The vets group also believe responsible cat ownership includes the "management of cats in communities and ecologically sensitive areas where there is vulnerable native wildlife".

Research collated by the Morgan Foundation says New Zealanders own 1.4 million cats, and cats on average bring home 13 prey a year - about one fifth of their total kills. The Foundation says cats living on the "edge of wilderness areas" cause the most damage.