Animals under attack?

Anti-1080 protesters (from left) Michelle Hager with Bree, Samantha Luzzi with Rufus (left) and...
Dog owners protest a 1080 drop set to fall on an 8600ha block in Dunedin. Photo: ODT files
It often seems New Zealand is at constant war with animals of one kind or another. We spend significant money and resources finding ways to annihilate many of our introduced species.

In the late 1990s, calicivirus was illegally introduced to control rabbits. The 1080 debate is heating up in the ``Battle for our Birds'' as drops to target stoats, rats and possums increase. There are new biological control technologies to manage certain wasps; meanwhile, other wasps are being used as parasitic control agents on the likes of the clover root weevil.

With our beloved native flora and fauna at risk, our key agricultural industry to protect, and public health to consider in the mix, many people accept that war as a necessary evil.

Yet, increasingly, it is animals we have come to rely on economically, or have chosen to domesticate, which have become problematic. For a nation of animal lovers, the tensions are inevitable and understandable.

Dairy cows - until recently our biggest export earner - are increasingly in the sights of environmentalists and other New Zealanders worried about the health of land and waterways and the impact on human health.

Man's best friend - and many dog owners - have felt hounded in recent years by the sheer number of rules and regulations in force around registration, fencing, muzzling, walking, barking, toileting.

The Dunedin City Council had nostrils flaring with its proposed rules around horses on city beaches. And now yet another assault on our feline friends is set to put the cat among the pigeons.

Dunedin City Council is proposing national cat control legislation along the same lines of the current Dog Control Act. There would be obligations for owners, including compulsory cat registration and microchipping, cat control officers and rangers could impose fines, and cats could be impounded.

The proposal has legs. It already has the support of the Otago Regional Council, other councils have been consulted, and this month it will go to a Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) vote. From there it could become a local government policy and LGNZ would begin lobbying the Government to have it made law.

The proposal is the result of submissions by various groups to the Dunedin City Council. The most recent was made by the Landscape Connections Trust - whose spokeswoman is Jinty MacTavish, a former Dunedin city councillor. The trust has started its ``Halo'' project, a community-run predator control programme surrounding the Orokonui Ecosanctuary and is concerned about the impact of domestic cats on threatened birds beyond the Orokonui boundaries.

The trust is looking to Wellington, which has implemented a bylaw requiring microchipping of cats, which can then be returned to owners if they are lost or caught in cage traps.

The face behind its ``Enhancing the Halo'' project is Gareth Morgan, whose calls for cat management have upset many cat owners. Now seeking election as leader of the newly formed The Opportunities Party, he is keen to be known for more than just his hard-hitting cat policies, but they are still well and truly on the agenda.

The policies are likely to make headway, given the Government's ambitious predator-free by 2050 goal.

Cat-loving New Zealanders don't want to see their own pets (an estimated 1.4 million) in any danger, and many are upset by the fate of abandoned and feral cats, too. Many may be willing to accept policies that can help to manage numbers, safeguard their own pets, protect our native birdlife, and reduce nuisance. The clincher will probably be whether the price of implementation is right.

 

Comments

We may be one of the few countries casual about untested biological warfare, as was the case with 'off label' illegal calcivirus release in 1998.

Environmentalists don't have anything against the cows. Dairying practice has been the issue.

I like cats, but today noticed they are 'dills', when one saw his reflection while eating, and bolted out in fright.

To conserve endangered fauna, we need to triage animal welfare. If wanting to preserve Orokonui wildlife, a free and noisy bell for every domestic cat. Dogs have always been prohibited from National Parks. Hunt and cull ferals. After all, there was enthusiasm for the shooting to death of pesky Port Chalmers geese.