What started out as an idea to have a cat curfew in shire has been downgraded to banning cats from entering two reserves.
In December 2016, councillor Simon Landow called on Wollondilly Council to support a controversial cat curfew which would have made it illegal for domestic cats to be outside from sunset to sunrise.
He wanted to lobby state members to change the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 to allow councils to implement night curfews.
But now the council is expected to ban cats from two trial sites at Scotcheys Reserve, Silverdale and Lyn Gordon Reserve, Thirlmere.
These reserves will become wildlife protection areas where cats are prohibited.
The aim of the new wildlife protection policy is to protect cats attacking wildlife.
The council’s compliance manager Robyn Cooper said it was the responsibility of pet owners to stop their cats roaming in the reserves.
“Sites may be monitored by council staff and it is envisaged that a reactive approach will be taken to monitoring the reserves,” she said.
“The council will respond to advice from users of the site and will possibly use cat traps.”
The Companion Animals Act 1998 provides no legal notion of a stray cat, therefore there is no offence in a cat straying and no requirement for cats to be kept inside.
If domestic animals are found on a reserve declared a wildlife protection area, council rangers have powers to fine owners and impound animals.
If pet cats are found in the reserves then owners risk being fined at least $880.
“Ownership of companion animals must be established prior to any fine being issued,” Ms Cooper said.
“Issuing fines for cats found in these reserves is secondary to protection of flora and fauna.”
Signage will also be installed to tell residents that the reserves are wildlife protection areas.
The policy is also a chance for the council to educate owners about responsible pet ownership.
A related brochure will remind locals of their requirements under the companion animals act, what they can do to be a responsible owner and it will encourage owners to keep their cats inside at night.
Last financial year 85 cats were impounded at the council’s animal shelter.
Of these, 26 cats were categorised as bon-a-fide ‘feral’ cats.
The remainder of the cats impounded were largely rehomed, sold or returned to owners.
The proposal is outlined in the draft Wildlife Protection Policy.
If the draft policy is adopted at Monday night’s council meeting, it will go on public exhibition and will then go back to council for final adoption.