SPCA New Zealand

SPCA thrilled with prospect of mandatory desexing for cats in New Zealand

03 August 2023

SPCA is applauding the Environment Select Committee’s recommendations to Parliament to take leadership in addressing the problems with cat overpopulation in New Zealand. The report, released yesterday, calls for national legislation involving mandating the desexing and microchipping of companion cats.

SPCA thrilled with prospect of mandatory desexing for cats in New Zealand

The petition of Erica Rowlands outlined how rescue groups face a relentless battle against the effects of irresponsible owners, as well as the fact cats cause a major problem for native species. To tackle overpopulation, the petition calls for cats to be desexed, microchipped and registered, to enforce responsible cat ownership and protect our wildlife.

The welfare of cats and responsible cat ownership are of key importance to SPCA. The report comes as the charity continues to be concerned with the declining number of cats being desexed and as little as half of owned cats are microchipped.

There are approximately 1.2 million companion cats residing in over a third of households across New Zealand. This troubling trend is particularly alarming as SPCA sees 70 percent of incoming animals coming from unplanned litters of kittens born each year, numerous lost cats, and a heartbreaking influx of sick and injured cats and kittens.

As the leading advocate for the welfare of all animals in New Zealand, the ramifications of cat overpopulation also extends far beyond SPCA Centres. Native wildlife faces the devastating consequences of predation, diseases are spread to both people and other animals, and there are unintended disturbances within communities.

SPCA Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Arnja Dale, says it is heartening to see widespread agreement on how we should care for and humanely manage cats in New Zealand.

"We are absolutely delighted with this positive outcome, because SPCA is committed to the welfare of all animals – not just one species.” says Dr Dale. “This recommendation reflects a consensus among the public, regional and local councils, animal welfare advocates, and conservation groups. Whenever anyone is speaking about cats, it can quickly turn into a polarised debate – and often you’re prompted to join either the ‘cat lover’ side or the ‘conservationist’ side. In fact, there is far more agreement in how cats should be cared for and managed in New Zealand than what is often portrayed. Requiring owned cats to be desexed and microchipped is not controversial.”

SPCA has long championed the cause for national cat legislation to protect the welfare of cats and humanely manage companion, stray, and feral cats, drawing clear distinctions between these categories. The goal is to safeguard cat welfare, protect native wildlife, and reduce disturbances in communities.

"In an ideal world, all cats would be cats on laps. This would mean no stray or feral cats, and all companion cats being safe and happy at home. While we may not be there yet, this recommendation from the Environment Select Committee represents a crucial first step towards realising that future vision for Aotearoa's cat population," adds Dr Arnja Dale.

SPCA supports national legislation to provide local governments with support in finding more sustainable solutions for managing cats in their communities and for national leadership on complex problems such as toxoplasmosis. The charity firmly believes that, given the impact that cat overpopulation is having, the best approach is to work collaboratively with multi-stakeholders, including being a member for the National Cat Management Strategy Group to achieve more humane and effective cat management in New Zealand.

Yesterday’s report also closely follows various regional research and campaigns, such as Wellington City Council’s survey in May, where 89 percent of cat owners expressed support for mandatory desexing.

SPCA Scientific Officer, Dr Christine Sumner, adds that national legislation is critical to supporting ongoing desexing efforts from SPCA and other organisations and advocacy work at a local level to find more sustainable solutions for the cat population.

“We recognise that, alongside legislative and regulatory action, there is a need for public education and community support in achieving lasting change,” says Dr Sumner. “Desexing and microchipping are widely supported by cat owners, veterinarians, rescue groups, and other members of the public.

“SPCA provides several avenues to help people desex and microchip their cats including our Snip ‘n’ Chip programme and community desexing. We work with local councils to promote messages for more responsible cat ownership, desex cats locally, and submit on bylaws making it clear that responsible cat ownership is an important priority to our organisation and our supporters.

“We need Government’s help to really address this complex issue. The evidence presented by submitters of this petition – alongside growing pressure from other regional and national bodies – will hopefully convince Government that it is time to introduce a nationwide cat management framework. Our view is they need to do this with urgency.”

SPCA looks forward to working with Government on the next steps in achieving national cat legislation that protects cat welfare and addressing the problems with cat overpopulation in New Zealand.

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