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The Invercargill City Council boss whose comments about cat traps raised the hackles of cat lovers around the world has apologised.
''I acknowledge I did make comments which were ill-considered and I sincerely apologise,'' chief executive Richard King said this week, the day after a 19,000-signature protest petition was presented to the council.
The council last year passed a bylaw saying property owners within the urban area could keep no more than three cats.
But it is having difficulties with a woman, believed to own 37 cats, who has ignored an official notice to abide by the bylaw.
Mr King angered cat lovers last month when he said disgruntled neighbours could collect free cat traps from the council and no questions would be asked about what had happened to trapped animals if the traps were returned empty.
While he received some support for his comments, he also stirred up a storm of criticism from those who said he was promoting animal cruelty.
Mr King said he did not intend that interpretation to be made.
The council's policy was to encourage people to take stray cats to the SPCA with the intention they would be rehomed or humanely put down, he said.
Petition organiser Paula Jones, of Christchurch, said she hoped Mr King's apology was genuine.
If Mr King truly did not mean to make such an ''irresponsible'' and ''flippant'' comment, then she had to take his apology at face value, she said.
The council is considering going to court and asking a judge to decide whether its bylaw can be enforced.
- Allison Rudd and Petrina Wright.