On the Southern Coast of New Zealand, the tiny, picturesque village of Omaui has announced a plan to ban all domestic cats by 2050.
Needless to say, cat owners are in an uproar and many play to disobey the law if it is voted in. Residents have until October 26th to state their arguments against the proposed initiative.
There are currently about 35 people in the village and an estimated 8 or 9 registered house cats, although they are not necessarily restricted to the indoors.
The issue prompting this is the feral cats that are regularly abandoned in the coastal village. For uncaring humans dumping these felines, it conveniently sits within a nature preserve at the end of a secluded stretch of road.
But why does the regional council, Environment Southland, believe eradicating ALL cats is the right move?
In their Biosecurity Strategy Pest Management Plan, they’ve included felines in the “harmful species” category. This is all animal, plant and marine life that pose a major threat to the region, both ecologically and economically.
They define these species as “a subject that is capable of causing damage to a place”. Their goal for these are to be “excluded or eradicated from that place, or contained, reduced, or controlled within the place to an extent that protects the values of that place.”
The main reasoning for the ban would be to protect native wildlife, including smaller animals, birds, insects and reptiles.
While free-roaming cats are likely to make an impact on our environments, completely eradicating cats from the population is NOT the answer to us.
According to the proposal, residents of Omaui would be required to spay/neuter, microchip and register their pets within 6 months of it taking effect. THIS we can get behind.
HOWEVER, once the cat passes away, you would not be able to replace the cat with another. Also, anyone moving to the area that had cats would be made to get rid of them first. WHAT?!
This is as ridiculous to us as it is to the cat loving residents.
“You’re just told one day that your cats, your treasured little possessions… really, that’s it. Either they get trapped in the traps, or those that survive can’t be replaced,” resident Terry Dean stated.
Resident Nico Jarvis said she would not comply with the council’s rules. Owning three cats was the only way to combat the ”intense” rodent problem in the area, she said.
”It doesn’t matter how many [rodents] I trap and poison, more just keep coming in from the bush. They chew into your house, you can’t get rid of them. If I cannot have a cat, it almost becomes unhealthy for me to live in my house,” she said.
Mr. Dean is a local resident who has lived in Omaui for 35 years. He told the New York Times that the community had not been properly consulted about the proposal, and that divisions over it had made things in the town “a bit awkward.”
“Once you lose the cats, you’ve lost the ability to control the nasties in the bush,” he said. “They do a marvelous job keeping the rodent population under control.” His beloved feline, Mr. Whiskers, being one of them.
The supporters of the plan assure the public that “We’re not cat haters, but we’d like to see responsible pet ownership and this really isn’t the place for cats,” said John Collins, of the Omaui Landcare Trust to Newshub.
“We want our environment to be wildlife-rich. Native wildlife is disappearing rapidly around the country and places like this where people still live and enjoy and hear the birdsong are probably few and far between,” Mr Collins said. He admits that native birds had been ”ripped to pieces” by cats on his front lawn.
Security cameras within the town limits have also shown local wildlife being caught by stray/feral cats. TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) is an obvious answer to control the feral population, but denying people to have house cats as pets is cruel to us.
Dr. Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre, explained the issue to BBC News.
“Cats make wonderful pets – they’re spectacular pets! But they shouldn’t be allowed to roam outside – it’s a really obvious solution. We would never let dogs do that. It’s about time we treat cats like dogs.”
“It sounds extreme,” he says. “But the situation has got out of control.”
He believes cat-lovers around the world need to embrace a “different mind-set” toward the animals. They should be adopted where possible, then neutered and exercised at home using toys, or in a controlled environment – for example, on a leash.
“This predicament is not the fault of cats – it’s humans’ fault,” he insists.
The Environment Southland’s Facebook page posted about the new plan, encouraging residents to weigh in. So far, there have been some great points brought up about the fact that poison, vehicles and most significantly, humans, are also dangerous to native species.
Environment Southland created and shared a YouTube video back in 2016 when they first announced designs for the plan.
So what are your thoughts?