Strict cat ban could save billions; majority support

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By Creative Media News

  • Nationwide cat ban could save billions annually
  • Majority support restricting cats indoors 24/7
  • Bans help protect wildlife and human health

According to a recent survey, a nationwide ban on cat ownership could save the nation billions of dollars, and most Australians would support such a measure.

The regulations may prohibit domestic cats from venturing outside and impose significant financial penalties on owners who fail to keep them indoors permanently. 

While some local councils and the entire ACT have already implemented the prohibition, others, such as Geelong and the City of Melbourne, are in the process of doing so; however, there are renewed calls for a nationwide blanket ban.

The Biodiversity Council found in a March survey that only one in every twelve individuals, or eight percent of the population, opposed the proposed ban.

In addition to safeguarding millions of native animals annually that would otherwise perish at the hands of domestic and feral cats, the prohibition may mitigate the estimated $6 billion annual economic cost of cat disorders transmitted to humans. 

The survey, undertaken by scholars at Monash University, asked over 3,400 individuals whether they would endorse a policy mandating that cat owners confine their pets to their premises.

“We discovered that a clear majority of individuals (66 percent) support cat containment,” said Jaana Dielenberg, a researcher, this week.

An exceptional minority, comprising merely one in every twelve individuals (8 percent), holds an opposing viewpoint. 

“Of the remaining 26%, none expressed support nor opposition.”

In December, the Department of Environment unveiled a preliminary threat abatement plan that advocated for nationwide standardization of companion cat containment regulations and the complete prohibition of feline presence near areas of high conservation value. 

Wildlife would be protected, and feral cat populations would be reduced due to the regulations.

However, Ms. Dielenberg added that it would also decrease the prevalence of several diseases transmissible to humans via animals. 

The annual financial burden on Australia includes medical expenses, lost wages, and other associated costs exceeding $6 billion.

“Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can be transmitted to humans but must finish its life cycle in cats, is the most prevalent of these diseases.” 

According to studies, human infection rates in Australian communities range from 22 percent to 66 percent.

The infection may result in morbidity, pregnancy complications, and, in extremely uncommon instances, fatality. 

Although the majority of infected individuals do not develop symptoms, the infection continues to cause thousands of hospitalizations annually. It is believed to have the potential to impair brain function despite remaining latent.

Research has established a correlation between cat-borne infections and elevated incidences of automobile collisions, psychological disorders, and self-harm.

At present, over one-third of local councils in Australia mandate the nocturnal or 24-hour confinement of cats.

While councils are accountable for pet-related matters, state and territory legislation significantly constricts their authority.

State law in New South Wales and Western Australia prohibits local councils from mandating cat containment, with the exception of designated food preparation areas in New South Wales.

Bans at the state or national level would resolve these problems.

Implementing 24/7 cat containment regulations in New South Wales through a simple legislative amendment would have profound benefits for our native wildlife,” said Jack Gough, advocacy manager for the Invasive Species Council.

Councils throughout the state are urgently seeking this amendment to safeguard their local bushland from the catastrophic effects of free-roaming domestic cats.

In contrast, the legislation in New South Wales does not mandate the confinement of cats, as does the legislation in Victoria, where approximately fifty percent of councils have implemented similar regulations.

Annually, a feral cat murders 748 reptiles, birds, and mammals compared to 186 killed by a free-roaming domestic cat.

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When multiplied by the millions of cats in Australia, it becomes an enormous problem, as cats have been primarily responsible for the 34 mammal extinctions in Australia since colonization. 

Presently, Australia is home to 110 native mammals designated as threatened.

One example is the kowari, a diminutive marsupial formerly prevalent in the Australian outback but now restricted to a narrow, arid region in south-west Queensland and north-west South Australia.

The kowari population is predominantly threatened by feral cats and foxes, as well as cattle farming, which destroys burrows and reduces ground vegetation.

The population is estimated to be around 1,200, as the government upgraded its status from vulnerable to endangered in November.

Ms. Dielenberg, also the communications and engagement manager for the Biodiversity Council, stated that “the time might be right for a nationwide change in how we manage our pet cats” in light of the community’s support for a blanket cat containment rule.

She stated, “A wider adoption of safe-at-home cat confinement would yield substantial benefits for the economy, local wildlife, human health, and cat welfare.

“Enforcing the containment of pet cats is a prudent policy decision.” In addition, we must invest in effective community communication, offer rebates to help contain cats, and enforce the rules to realize the full potential benefits.

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