Council sharpens claws on cat laws

FREMANTLE council has toughened up its cat laws again, banning them from all council property despite a spirited defence of the moggie by councillor Geoff Graham.

The council also had to add in a clause after it was realised the proposed changes to its Cat Management Local Law would make it illegal to take cats to the vet or a walk on the lead.

The council had banned cats from 12 bushland, beach and river areas in 2020, but now moggies straying onto any council verge, road, car park or footpath will land their owner with a $200 fine.

Councillor Adin Lang, who championed the tougher cat laws, said the move was an important step towards protecting native wildlife.

“Since we first introduced this reform the community has been saying more needs to be done, and I’m proud of our council for responding to the extent of our powers,” Cr Lang said.

“The debate has now moved past why we’re doing this. It’s now focused on how we can make this more uniform across Australia.

“Since we went on this journey, councils across Australia have been following our lead and going further; they are trying to put cats on leads.”

But the city’s governance manager Charlie Clarke told councillors the state government had knocked back some of those councils. They’d tried to introduce rules allowing them to take effective control of cats, which wasn’t allowed under the state’s Cat Act.

Freo’s way around this was to give itself the right to declare specific cats nuisances if they kept annoying neighbours, and to fine the owners.

Cr Graham said the council’s proposed law was “futile”.

“In Fremantle, most people who have a cat have got a cat that has come from a rescue,” Cr Graham said. 

“I’ve had four cats over 40 years, all from rescue homes, and they have all lived on the streets for about a year before they’ve found a loving home.

“I’ve never had one of these cats present anything to iour house more than a mouse and a rat.”

Cr Graham claimed cats were probably responsible for just 20 bird deaths a year in Fremantle and that didn’t warrant the time and resources that had gone into drafting the local law.

“I certainly don’t think there’s any merit in trying to go down a policy where a cat can’t cross the road – at it’s own peril, of course – or walk down the footpath and have little kids give it a pat and a chat too and bring a bit of joy to people.”

But Cr Su Groome is a converted pet owner who admitted her last cat Felix had taken his share of wildlife, but only revealing how many when he was angry at her.

“When I moved into my current house, sans Felix, I’ve been working very hard to create a habitat. I love the birds that live in and around WGV – I bought there because of the verges and the vegetation; the proximity to Boo Park and the whole biodiversity and the ability that we could create more in our suburbs.

“The person across the road had a whole collection of cats, so it took a long time before I got the kind of birdlife and wildlife in my yard that I’ve got now, and in fact it only happened once the cats moved out of the neighbourhood.”

Cr Groome said the new laws would send a message to owners that it “it’s not OK for Felixes of this world to own the whole street and neighbourhood”.

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