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Cats could be banned in a New Zealand town. ‘It’s like a police state,’ resident says

Cats may be banned in Omaui, a New Zealand village, as the government considers a plan to force owners to neuter and register their pet felines — and never get a new one. Officials say the cats kill local wildlife.
Cats may be banned in Omaui, a New Zealand village, as the government considers a plan to force owners to neuter and register their pet felines — and never get a new one. Officials say the cats kill local wildlife. AP

“It’s like a police state.”

That is Nico Jarvis’ complaint after the New Zealand government announced a plan to eventually ban all cats in her village of Omaui, according to the Otago Daily Times. Ali Meade, biosecurity operations manager for Environment Southland, said the proposed plan would prevent people from purchasing any new cats — and require owners to neuter, register and microchip any current felines they have at home, the newspaper reported.

The ban is needed because Omaui has nature reserves, Meade reportedly told Newshub, and the cats are “preying on native birds” and “all sorts of things.” New Zealand has already announced an “ambitious” plan to rid the country of all non-native predators by 2050.

Environment Southland, a government agency, wrote in a press release that the possible ban on cats is part of a larger effort that targets “72 specific pests” in the area.

Terry Dean, who lives in Omaui, said he was surprised the ban was even being considered, according to Newshub.

“You’re just told one day that your cats, your treasured little possessions ... either they get trapped in the traps, or those that survive can’t be replaced,” he reportedly told the outlet.

And Jarvis, who owns three cats, says she fears the ban will cripple her ability to fight back against the “intense” rodent problem near her house, according to the Otago Daily Times. The newspaper reported her saying “If I cannot have a cat, it almost becomes unhealthy for me to live in my house.”

The nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society is teaming with Stanislaus Animal Services Agency on a three-year Community Cat Program that will greatly increase trap-neuter-return of strays. Deke Farrow/jfarrow@modbee.com

“It doesn’t matter how many [rodents] I trap and poison, more just keep coming in from the bush,” she said, according to the Otago Daily Times. “They chew into your house, you can’t get rid of them.”

Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre, said cats pose a worse problem than most people realize, according to the BBC. Marra said cats have been a factor in the extinction of 63 species across the globe, BBC reported.

He said “the situation has got out of control” — but pointed out that “this predicament is not the fault of cats,” according to the BBC. Instead, he pins the blame on humans who have allowed the population of cats in the world to flourish to unprecedented levels.

One of the prominent supporters of the ban, John Collins, said it’s important to reduce the number of cats in Omaui because it would protect the natural wildlife of the area. But Collins, chairman of the Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust, said proponents of the plan are “not cat haters,” according to the Otago Daily Times.

“Native wildlife is disappearing rapidly around the country,” he reportedly told the Otago Daily Times, “and places like this where people still live and enjoy and hear the birdsong are probably few and far between.”

Concerned residents have until Oct. 23 to submit their opinions on the plan, the government wrote in its press release.

As the debate ensues, Jarvis said she is just grappling with the surprise, according to Newshub.

“It was an absolute shock to me,” the outlet quoted her as saying. “I feel a bit hoodwinked to be honest.”

Millie Reddig is a cat advocate that helps control the feral population with a community of people trying to solve the cat problem, which she says is really a people problem.

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