The SPCA has rejected claims the organisation releases unwanted cats into the wild, after Gareth Morgan promised to donate $5 to the SPCA for every homeless cat they put down if they gave up the alleged practice.
Morgan and SPCA executive president Bob Kerridge have been locked in a war of words after the businessman launched the "Cats to Go" campaign last week, labelling cats as "natural-born killers" and calling for local governments to require registration and micro-chipping of cats, and to eradicate unregistered cats.
In a New Zealand Herald opinion piece, Kerridge called for Morgan to "rethink your tactics and join us to bring about a positive solution by encouraging responsible cat ownership".
"Why not put your money where your busy mouth is and support us by assisting with the funding of desexing and micro-chipping of every domestic cat in the country. That will make a positive difference, and will free up SPCA funding to add to our bird rescue activities," Kerridge wrote.
Morgan responded to Kerridge on Campbell Live last night by offering the SPCA $5 for every unwanted cat it euthanised.
"Yesterday Bob Kerridge had the audacity to write in the New Zealand Herald to lay down a challenge to me to put my money where my mouth is and give the SPCA some money.
"I'll do that, Bob. I'll do it as long as you stop being the society to protect cats and start becoming the SPCA as we all think you are.
"Here's the condition: You will not release one more cat into the wild in New Zealand. You will only release cats to registered owners who will chip them. If you do that, then for every cat that is turned into an authorised pound and doesn't satisfy those conditions, so nobody claims (it), and is euthanised, I will give $5 to the SPCA."
Morgan accused the SPCA of "single-handedly destroying our native species".
"These people are releasing cats back into the wild - it's unbelievable."
However Kerridge rejected the claim, labelling it "another Morgan myth".
"Of course the SPCA does not release cats into the wild. There's no question of that and we never will," he told RadioLive.
However the SPCA does have its Trap, Neuter, Release programme, which involves releasing stray cats back to urban colonies.
"Stray cats are cats that are often domestic cats that have been released or left to fend on their own, and they often form into colonies. They are certainly not feral cats ... and these colonies are certainly not in the wild, at all. What we do ... we care for them by desexing them so they won't reproduce, we put them back in their colony where they live, we feed them and care for them and ... these colonies eventually go."
Kerridge said the colonies are "all over the place", and "virtually all of them" are desexed. There are more than 120 volunteers who care for the cats in colonies, he said.
Kerridge said it was important to distinguish between stray cats and feral cats, with the latter doing the most damage to native bird populations.
"The feral is never seen. They live in the bush, they are born there, they have no dependency on people for food or anything like that."
He said the SPCA has nothing to do with feral cats as they are a declared pest.
Kerridge said the Auckland SPCA alone receives about 19,000 animals a year - the bulk of those are cats, with roughly half of those put down.
He told RadioLive he didn't have the "faintest idea" what Morgan's $5 offer was about.
"This is the first time he's offered us anything in terms of funds to help us do what he wants."
Morgan clarified to Campbell Live his campaign had nothing to do with those cats confined to their owner's homes, and rejected that he ever said people should not be able to replace their pet cats when they die.
"What I'm saying is, keep your cat confined and if you can't keep your cat confined, then yes, please make this your last cat.
"Don't let your cat wander off your section - that's my bottom line."
Morgan suggested people tired of neighbours' cats walking across their property should cage-trap them and take them to their local council, to prompt local authorities to deal with the issue of wandering cats.
"I'm coming at this from the conservation angle, that the biggest asset this country has, by a country mile, is its natural capital, and I'm about monetising that so I can boost the incomes and jobs in New Zealand. This is just one part of that puzzle."