Dunedin's newly formed ''cat committee'' is already
running into controversy.
SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge has rushed to the
defence of cats in the wake of news of the committee and
expressed concern about possible attempts to control feline
numbers in Dunedin.
The committee was set up by Dunedin city councillor Kate
Wilson to examine the issue of cats in the city, after
concerns were raised by submitters to council forums several
times in the past year.
In a series of emails between Mr Kerridge, Dunedin animal
activist Alex Kerr, Cr Wilson, and others on the matter this
week, Mr Kerridge, who is also the founder and chairman of
the NZ Companion Animal Council, a former president of the
RSPCA and a WSPA New Zealand director, warned the council
needed to first be aware of the legal reality of cat
categories and know what cats resided in Dunedin if it were
to be spared ''considerable embarrassment and not mention
A cat on the prowl on the Otago Peninsula. Photo by Stephen
Under the Code of Welfare for Cats, there were three
distinct categories of felines, namely companion, stray and
feral, and the distinction between them needed to be clearly
Companion and stray cats were protected under the Animal
Welfare Act, and those were the cats the council was dealing
with in Dunedin, he said. To categorise the cats in Dunedin
city as ''feral'' was totally incorrect, he wrote.
''Let me make this very clear, there are no feral cats in
Dunedin, city or suburbs, and to define them as such will
lead to the unlawful destruction of stray and companion cats,
a situation that is unlikely to be tolerated by the
community, and certainly not by the SPCA.''
Feral cats, which were never seen in populated areas, were
governed under the Biosecurity Act and therefore the
jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation, which
undertook its own control methods.
''Clearly, an understanding of the forgoing is critical if
the council are considering any system of cat 'control'.''
With that understanding, a more meaningful method could be
applied, for example the Auckland model with its Cat
Coalition, which could involve the support not only of the
SPCA, but also a large number of the community in a
''It has to be said, that much of the cat hysteria we have
had in recent months is based on totally inaccurate
information, which if taken to excess, as appears to be
happening in Dunedin, will not solve the 'problem' and, in
fact, may well exacerbate it, and lead to other issues even
Cr Wilson responded, assuring Mr Kerridge that as a resident
of Dunedin, on a farm 80km from the Octagon, she knew there
were feral cats in Dunedin.
She said the committee was looking to establish what
agreement there was on what categories of cat there were, the
issues in the city with them and what work was being done in
''We have no ability to act.''
She felt confident there was a good spread of representatives
on the committee, with university researchers, Pet Fix, the
SPCA, the council and experienced locals ready to talk about
issues and look into possible solutions. She noted the
Auckland model had already been discussed.
Action would happen only if a report went to the council, she
Mr Kerridge responded that he encouraged healthy
communication and was happy to assist the committee in any
''sensible'' resolve, ''but remember I have the reverence of
life at heart''.
The issue of cats was also raised at a mayoral forum in
Dunedin this week.
Candidates were asked by an audience member if they would
consider licensing and registering cats.
Olivier Lequeux was all for it, but Cr Lee Vandervis said it
was an ''absolutely absurd'' idea, and asked what would be
Andrew Whylie said something had to be done, perhaps
micro-chipping, and Aaron Hawkins said more neutering
projects should be encouraged. Pete George said any decisions
had to be in consultation with the public.
Hilary Calvert was against licensing them because, as with
dogs, good owners paid for bad owners' behaviour, and Mayor
Dave Cull said the committee would establish what agreement
there was on the cat situation in Dunedin and give its views
on how that might be dealt with.