Dannevirke: Action urged to cull feral cats

By Christine McKay

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Woodville's feral cats are reproducing in great numbers causing the town's problem to grow.
Woodville's feral cats are reproducing in great numbers causing the town's problem to grow.

When Woodville tried to deal with an invasion of stray and feral cats last year, the claws were out for those volunteering to do the work and the campaign was scratched.

A trapping and culling programme had begun in the town after reports of moggies fighting, stealing food, spreading disease and continuing to breed. And with no one able to get near the strays, they weren't able to be desexed and were reproducing in great numbers.

However, volunteers who carried out the trapping became the target of abuse and were talked about as if they were murderers, said Robin Winter, president of Woodville Districts' Vision.

But now with the town's stray and feral cat problem continuing to grow, a number of residents and organisations have requested the Tararua District Council become more involved in controlling stray cats by trapping, desexing and public education.

Without specific funding from rates, the council has previously referred stray and feral cat inquiries to Horizons Regional Council and/or the SPCA.

A council bylaw under the Local Government Act could now be the catalyst to help deal with the problem as it could provide a basis for regulatory action, such as where the number of cats kept is more than allowed under limits set in the bylaw.

Woodville-based Tararua District councillor Peter Johns told the Dannevirke News he hoped the inclusion of cats in either existing council bylaws or as a new bylaw would be effective.

"It would give council some teeth to take action," he said. "We've got these stray and feral cats killing bird life, frogs, skinks and gekkos, and they're not fair on neighbouring cats either. People's family pet cats are rubbing noses with these diseased strays and it could potentially pose a problem for them."

Unlike the Dog Control Act, there is no legislation enabling all owners of cats to be charged for non-compliance, which means any funding for enforcement would be through property rates.

There are also a number of legal issues around care of animals and identification of domestic pets and owners.

As part of the review of all bylaws during 2016-17, Tararua District Council is considering whether such a bylaw - covering nuisance and public health provisions - would be justified.

The Dannevirke SPCA recently undertook a campaign to desex cats and Laura Phillips, the centre manager, said the campaign was very successful.

About double the number of cats were desexed this year compared with previous years - 234 in Dannevirke, Woodville and Pahiatua were desexed.

"This equates roughly to more than 1800 fewer kittens we will be seeing come next kitten season," she said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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