Pet owners who let their cats wander outside have legal responsibilities, writes Mal Byrne.
Pet owners who let their cats wander outside have legal responsibilities, writes TGB’s Mal Byrne.
The provisions relating to cats in the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 recognise that cats are not a threat to humans, but a significant threat to wild life. Of course, if your cat is an inside cat, you have nothing to fear. However, if like me, your cats are outside from 7.00 am to 5.00 pm approximately or even all day, you need to ensure that your cat is an “identified cat” under the legislation by doing one or preferably both of the following:
1. Making sure that your cat is wearing a collar with your contact address or telephone number. My cats lose their collars regularly so I recommend that you also do the following:
2. Have a microchip placed under your cat’s skin by a veterinarian who will also mark your cat’s ears with the letter “M” certifying that the cat has a microchip.
If your cat is an identified cat, it cannot be trapped. If it is trapped, it has to be automatically released. If your cat annoys the neighbours by going on to its property, the neighbour can chase your cat off the property, but cannot harm the cat. Nevertheless, if your cat is annoying your neighbours, it is worthwhile trying to negotiate some form of compromise such as agreeing that the neighbour will place citronella oil or some other cat repellent on various parts of the property to minimise the risk that the cat goes on the property.
However, even if your cat is an identified cat, it is at risk of being captured and destroyed if it strays onto a national park or reserve. Hence, if you live near a national park or reserve, you really need to keep your cat inside because your cat will be at risk of being destroyed if it strays onto a national park or reserve.
In summary, responsible cat owners in my view should either keep their cat inside or make sure that their cat is an identified cat. Unlike dogs, cats are free agents psychologically and love to roam. If you think that time outside is part of giving your cat the maximum quality of life possible, you need to back that up by protecting your cat’s interests by making sure that it is identified and has the legal right to wander.
For legal advice, contact your nearest TGB office here.