Baw Baw Shire statistics show a growing feral cat problem in the region.
The council recently released its draft Domestic Animal Management Plan 2017-2021 for public review. The document estimates Baw Baw’s feline population to be 7,146, of which only 30 per cent is registered.
“Community compliance officers have noted a significant increase in the number of cats being surrendered or seized, mostly from a large population of feral cats,” the draft plan states.
Alarmingly, only 25 per cent of all Baw Baw’s cats are known to be desexed. That’s 84 per cent of domesticated cats with no estimation provided for the much larger feral population.
Feral cats are responsible for damaging native animal populations, and the plan states ferals surrendered to the council “often present with cat flu, other health issues.”
They also often have “a temperament that is unsuitable for rehousing, which leads to higher euthanasia rates.”
“Of the 451 animals impounded in 2016/17, 94 of these animals were euthanised, including 15 dogs – two having been seized as a result of dog attacks, three having been surrendered by their owners, and 79 cats.”
72 per cent of Baw Baw’s estimated dog population of 10,770 is registered. 68 per cent of those registered dogs have been desexed.
Dog registration rates have however dropped from an estimated 94 per cent in 2014 to approximately 72 per cent now.
The plan suggests Baw Baw’s dog euthanasia rates are low when compared to other councils.
The number of impounded animals has been steadily increasing since 2014/15, “from 361 in 2014/15 to 451 for 2016/17.”
“Semi-owned” cats more than a semi-problem
The draft plan mentions an awareness campaign about “semi-owned” cats. These cats are defined as ferals who are fed by humans but have no further care.
A record number of cats in this category have been presented to Baw Baw’s pound.
The document goes into some detail on the issue:
“There remains a continuous problem with residents harbouring stray and feral cats by providing feed for them, yet not accepting the responsibility of ownership by way of registration and desexing. This subsequently leads to further breeding and a larger feral cat population.
“Feral cats that are seized or surrendered often present with cat flu, other health issues or a temperament that is unsuitable for rehousing, which leads to higher euthanasia rates.”
Print, radio, and TV ads have been proposed to encourage people to formally adopt, desex, and care for the animals.
You can read the draft plan and make submissions using the council’s website. (Click here)
This story also appeared in the 8 September 2017 Baw Baw In Brief. Click play below to watch the full show.
Image: a feral cat. Original photo: “014” by Jena Fuller. Image modified by Baw Baw Citizen. License: CC BY-SA 2.0