Cats keep their freedom after curfew plan is defeated

Murray Bridge's pets and strays will be allowed to keep roaming the streets for now.

This story was originally published behind Murray Bridge News’ paywall. Paywalled stories are unlocked four weeks after publication. Can’t wait that long? Subscribe here.

Cats will be allowed to keep roaming Murray Bridge at night after a planned curfew failed to win support from councillors.

Councillor Karen Eckermann had proposed the idea as a way of reducing the number of feral cats found in parts of the city, for their own good as well as the benefit of humans.

“Cats roaming, being fed by ‘kindly’ persons who do not take responsibility for the cats, and general unowned and abandoned cats in burgeoning populations around urban areas continue to cause angst among too many residents,” she said in a submission to the council’s October meeting.

“From an animal welfare perspective, which to me is equal priority, a cat living on the streets without a loving home means starvation and injury, litter after litter for the females, endless fighting for the males (and) premature, diseased deaths for all.”

In the absence of statewide leadership on the issue, she said, councils needed to come up with their own solutions, in close consultation with local cat owners.

However, she conceded that introducing a curfew would likely be difficult, costly and unpopular.

“Last time I tried to implement a trapping program I was swamped with hate mail and comments as if I was some sort of grim reaper of cats or cat hater – I even received threats from interstate cat welfare groups,” she said.

“On the contrary, I love cats and have two of my own.”

Idea has merit, but now's not the time, councillors decide

The council had already resolved to spend $20,000 on a wider-reaching study into the best way to manage cats as part of its 2020-21 budget.

It would be best to see that project through rather than jumping at one possible solution, staff advised.

Councillors Mat O’Brien and Airlie Keen agreed that locals should be asked whether they would support a curfew.

“The community probably deserves a chance to talk about it,” Cr O’Brien said.

But others, including Councillors Wayne Thorley and Tyson Matthews, felt talking about the issue right now would be premature.

It would be better to wait for the state Dog and Cat Management Board to act, Cr Thorley said.

Councillors voted 5-4 against a proposal for staff to consult the public and report back.

This was not Cr Eckermann's first cat rodeo

Solving Murray Bridge's feral cat problem has been one of Cr Eckermann’s passions since she was elected to the council.

She was instrumental in the formation of a working party which has wrestled with the issue, and advocated for a city-wide round-up of cats without a collar or microchip in 2015.

She and her daughter were also involved in the formation of Murraylands Animal Welfare Watch, an advocacy group, and she ran as an Animal Justice Party candidate at the 2019 federal election.

At home, she has domesticated a number of feral cats over the years and humanely euthanised several others.

What to do if you have a feral cat problem

The Murray Bridge council hires out cat traps to residents who have cat problems.

Per the Dog and Cat Management Act, cats which are able to be identified must be released if caught.

Unidentified cats may be taken to the Animal Welfare League or a veterinarian, who can decide whether they should be rehomed or euthanised.

However, keeping a cat without food or shelter for an extended time – including in a trap – may constitute an act of cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Photo: Max Sandelin/Unsplash.

Give a gift subscription