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Councillor’s solution to Orange's killer cats is a “Borenore Hummingbird”. A what now?

February 11, 2023

Orange News Examiner Art Department.

By Peter Holmes

Feral and domestic cats roaming in the dark and killing birds around Orange should be met with a “Borenore Hummingbird”, according to long-time councillor Kevin Duffy.

A forthright, grassroots operator who is known to challenge the conventions of the English language when he gets frothed up over a community issue, Duffy told The Orange News Examiner: “Any cat that's running around out there killing birds should be hit with a Borenore Hummingbird.”

Say what?

“A bullet. They should be gotten rid of. They’re not native to Australia and they’re born killers.”

Duffy raised the issue of cat containment at Tuesday night’s council meeting. He was clearly fed up with seeing cats “squirming around in the gullies” of an evening in Orange and surrounds.

“I can fully understand grandma or grandpa or some child having a companion cat in the house, and they look after it and attend to its needs,” he told us. “I think that’s absolutely fantastic. Same as they do with their dogs. You have to lock your dog up. Cats [should be] no bloody different.

“[And] what’s wrong with registering a cat the same as you have to do with your dog. I want the debate in the chamber where everyone can have their say. It's got to be addressed otherwise it will keep happening.”

Duffy said he had been contacted by residents in Orange who have seeds in their backyard "that attract cockatoos, galahs, parrots. They’re ringing me up complaining about the cats from next door and up the road knocking them over and killing them.

”I can assure you, I've got no cats where I live [Borenore] and I see nearly every type of bird that comes here every afternoon: superb parrots, king parrots, Mountain Larrys, rosellas, white cockatoos, magpies. Because I have no cats.”

Asked if he had ever domiciled with a feline before, he said: “Mate we've had cats around my place before but I've just banned them. I got sick of seeing young magpies and galahs and peewees and sometimes willy wagtails, and the cat dragging them inside.

“I said, ‘Hang on, this is wrong’. These birds are natives, they live in our trees and they create an atmosphere of a night.”

The state Office of Local Government (OLG) oversees the Companion Animals Act (CA Act). Councils around NSW need permission from the office to introduce new guidelines around cat containment and euthanasia.

Councils are lobbying or seeking more information from the OLG.

In October last year the OLG wrote to the acting general manager of Wagga Wagga Council about cat containment, as per council papers.

“The NSW Government is aware of the problem of nuisance, stray and feral cats and the impact of predation on native wildlife and communities across NSW,” the letter said. “The government is committed to promoting responsible pet ownership and improving animal welfare standards, while also recognising that the issues of roaming cats, cat predation and cat management are complex matters.

“There are no provisions under the CA Act that require an owner to prevent a cat from roaming beyond the owner’s property and the CA Act is not established for the purpose of pest animal management.

“At this time, it would be unreasonable for the NSW Government to make amendments that would impose an additional administrative and financial-burden on councils by mandating that cats are confined to an owner’s property, or to impose ’cat curfews’.”

The OLG told Wagga Wagga that “before initiating any legislative changes, the effectiveness of the current education initiatives and reforms needs to be considered along with consultation with councils and their communities”.

It said any suggestions from “other interested stakeholders and community members will be considered during any future review of the policy and legislative framework in relation to improving the management of cats in our communities”.

Councils have some existing powers, including the ability to issue a nuisance order.

“However, to impose a nuisance order a council must be satisfied that a cat: makes a noise that persistently occurs or continues to such a degree or extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any other premises; or repeatedly damages anything outside the property where it is ordinarily kept.”

Nuisance orders remain in force for six months and the owner can be issued with a fine each time the nuisance order is not complied with.

The CA Act permits two circumstances in which persons, other than authorised officers, may “seize” cats: when the cat is in a public place prohibited under the Act (food preparation/consumption areas or wildlife protection areas), or where it is reasonable and necessary for the protection of any person or animal (except for vermin) from injury or death.”

The cat must be taken back to its owner or handed over the pound or RSPCA “as soon as possible”.

According to the publication "Cats in Australia: Companion and Killer”, published by the CSIRO in 2020, pet and feral cats together were killing more than two billion mostly native reptiles, birds and mammals a year in Australia.

It found that on average each day cats killed more than 3.1 million mammals, 1.8 million reptiles and 1.3 million birds in Australia.

A feral cat, on average, killed 740 animals a year. It said there were 2.8 million feral cats in Australia, a figure that could double when good rains led to an increased number of prey animals.

Meanwhile, there were about four million domestic cats. The book reported that the per capita kill rate of pet cats was 25 percent that of feral cats, but that pet cats live at much higher densities.

“The predation (where a predator kills and eats prey) of pets per square kilometre in residential areas is 28–52 times larger than predation rates by feral cats in natural environments, and 1.3–2.3 times greater than predation rates per km2 by feral cats living in urban areas.”

It said that “pet cats kill introduced species more often than do feral cats living in natural environments, but, nonetheless, the toll of native animals killed per square kilometre by pet cats in residential areas is still much higher than the toll per square kilometre by feral cats.

“Pet cat impacts are serious and should be reduced.”

Duffy said he believed the community would go along with stricter cat containment policies, if not the Borenore Hummingbird, “as long as we sell the fact we totally appreciate companion cats and the need for companion cats for mental health issues or companionship.

“Those people who really care about their cats will look after them, same as they do with those little chow-wow dogs, or whatever they call them.”

Should Orange have a cat curfew?

  • Yes

  • No

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