Lack of action on stray cats is 'embarrassing', councillor says

Councillor Karen Eckermann has slammed both the Murray Bridge council and state government for failing to solve the problem of feral cats.

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It is shameful that stray cats remain such a problem in Murray Bridge, a councillor says.

Karen Eckermann has slammed both her own council and the state government for failing to act on the issue during the past six years.

“On at least a weekly basis I am approached by residents about the stray cat crisis in urban Murray Bridge,” she said.

“That’s what it is, it’s a crisis, and it’s not easy to explain why the council won’t do something about it.

“It’s embarrassing.”

Cr Eckermann’s words sparked some action at a meeting last week.

Councillors ordered staff to take a closer look at some of the options for controlling feral cats – potentially including a curfew or regular round-ups.

The council’s development and regulation manager had suggested a wait-and-see approach, as a review of statewide cat management laws was supposedly only 18 months away.

But Cr Eckermann said she was sick of waiting.

“I just don’t understand the reluctance to ... act decisively in this space,” she said.

“We should not be relying on the state government to sort out something that is well and truly within council’s duties.”

Cr John DeMichele agreed.

“Having a business in the CBD, there’s two main things that irk me at the moment: the shopping trolleys and the cats,” he said.

“Cats are a problem because they’re getting into the rubbish, they tip the rubbish over everywhere – they are a major issue.”

Cr Tyson Matthews said he, too remembered feral cats being raised as an issue as long ago as 2014.

He agreed that the council needed to show some initiative.

Lack of statewide rules is part of the problem

No statewide rules exist for dealing with cats, according to the council’s development and regulation manager.

Some councils have registration systems and limits on the number of cats allowed per property, but many others have no cat-specific rules at all.

The state government was due to review the Dog and Cat Management Act within 18 months, the manager said, but the Dog and Cat Management Board had twice failed to provide more information.

Cr Eckermann had previously proposed ideas including a cat curfew and a city-wide round-up of strays as ways of addressing the issue.

The Murraylands Animal Welfare Watch founder and former Animal Justice Party candidate has long campaigned for an answer to Murray Bridge’s feral cat problem for the cats’ own sake.

Stray cats’ lives were typically short and filled with hunger, injury and disease, she said last year.

What to do if you find a stray cat

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

Any cat which is able to be identified must be released; but unidentified cats may be taken to the Animal Welfare League or a vet, who can decide whether they should be rehomed or euthanised.

Cats should not be kept in traps for an extended period.