A vision for responsible cat ownership and humane cat management
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
How we treat animals in New Zealand is becoming increasingly linked to how we feel about ourselves as a society.
There are approximately 1.4 million owned cats and an estimated 200,000 stray cats in New Zealand. Studies show the number of feral cats in the country to be between eight million and 14 million.
The National Cat Management Strategy Group (NCMSG), of which the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) is a member, presented its proposed strategy and key recommendations to address this significant societal issue, to the New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) Conference earlier today. NCMSG’s vision is that cats in New Zealand are responsibly owned and valued, and should be humanely managed in a way that protects their welfare and our unique native species by 2025.
The NCMSG recognises there are significant benefits to cat ownership and that cats have intrinsic value to people, the community and to New Zealand society, but also acknowledges there are concerns regarding the impact cats have, particularly on native wildlife and pastoral industries.
The key principles of the strategy are promotion of responsible cat ownership, humane cat management, and environmental protection, and NZVA is proud to be a part of this group as this strategy aligns completely with NZVA’s single binding idea that the wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment is inseparable.
“The recognition of sentience in our animal welfare legislation raises the bar for New Zealand in the way we manage complex issues like cat management,” says Head of Veterinary Services Callum Irvine, “This requires us to ensure that any framework developed not only addresses the needs of the community in a consultative and collaborative manner but also ensures the wellbeing of cats is acknowledged and that methods employed are humane."
The issue is complex and the proposed changes seek to enable, rather than mandate, the development of solutions at a community level. Given the importance and sensitivity of this issue, the NCMSG has proceeded cautiously and is in ongoing consultation with identified interested parties on all aspects of the proposed draft national cat management strategy and will pursue a range of actions to implement the required change.
The New Zealand Veterinary profession will play a critical role through education to ensure a change in community attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that will be essential to realise this vision.