Waikato SPCA says Hamilton's out-of-control cat problem could force it to shut, but a city councillor says he would be struggling to support all its plans for keeping cats on a tighter leash.
The SPCA branch - proposing more drastic measures than its national body - wants a bylaw under which households with more than four cats need a permit, cats have a night curfew, all cats are required to be microchipped and registered and cat colonies are managed.
Former Waikato SPCA manager Tracy Wilde, who is still involved with the agency, told councillors at a draft long term plan hearing yesterday the SPCA was struggling to cope and warned that the problem of having too many cats could become a community issue.
"We will go out of business and then how do we deal with it? It won't be us any more, it will somebody else's problem because the reality is we can't go on as we are at the moment.
"It's a community welfare issue and an animal welfare issue and it needs to be taken very seriously."
When asked to prioritise the rules, the SPCA said the microchipping and registration were crucial. Desexing was a priority but it felt this should be dealt with by government legislation.
The proposal has received mixed reactions from the public.
City councillors congratulated the branch on its "brave" proposal for a cat bylaw but quizzed it over how the council would enforce it and how many staff would be needed - all details the SPCA said needed more work.
But councillor John Gower gave an early signal he would not be supporting the proposal in full, saying: "I have great difficulties in supporting some of these from a pragmatic point of view."
Councillor Roger Hennebry said cats were a big problem in the northeastern end of the city, and councillor Daphne Bell pointed out that the city council already had nuisance bylaws.
The bylaw applies to animals - excluding dogs - and allows people to keep animals on private property provided they are not causing a nuisance. It is to be reviewed in September.
Hamilton City Council animal education and control manager Fiona Sutton said the council received only a few complaints about nuisance cats and assisted where it could or worked with the SPCA on welfare-related issues.
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker, who is the chairwoman of the Waikato SPCA, removed herself from the debate and Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman chaired the meeting during the SPCA's presentation.
The council will meet on June 6 and 8 to deliberate on the submissions before the long term plan is adopted on June 29.