News / Council

Cat curfew on its way to Brunswick?

RSPCA backs proposal to protect both cats and wildlife

Mark Phillips
Tuesday, September 28, 2021

PET owners in Brunswick and its surrounds could soon be required to lock their feline friends inside at night under a proposed cat curfew.

Moreland Council is likely to introduce a curfew next year in a bid to keep the 6656 registered cats in the municipality off the streets at night to protect both themselves and other wildlife.

The move has the backing of the RSPCA, and some residents want the council to go even further and make it illegal for cats to be outside of their owner’s property at any time.

The proposed cat curfew is contained within Moreland’s draft domestic animal management plan for the next four years, which was adopted by councillors earlier this month and is now open for public comment.

The plan outlines council actions to curb nuisance dogs and cats and encourage responsible pet ownership.

If it goes ahead with the proposal, Moreland would be following many other Victorian council areas which already have overnight curfews in place, including neighbouring Darebin, which introduced a 7pm to 7am curfew at the start of this year.

A council survey earlier this year identified overpopulation, nuisance, responsible pet ownership and dog attacks as key concerns about Moreland’s pets.

Moreland has 6656 registered cats and 12,191 registered dogs. There has been a 32% increase in pet ownership since 2017, with a large spike over the past 12 months which has been attributed to the desire for companionship during COVID-19.

In 2020-21, 1062 cats were taken to the RSPCA’s Epping Animal Welfare Facility, of which just 5.5% were returned to their owners and 28% were put down. Since 2017, the number of cats impounded by the council has increased by 54%. The council also provides free traps for nuisance cats and those trespassing onto properties

In that same period, the council’s animal management team of four responded to 1690 complaints, including 129 dog attacks and 214 barking dog complaints. There are currently 14 dogs with restrictions in Moreland, including three declared dangerous.

Despite a relatively low number of complaints about cats, Moreland is leaning towards introducing a dusk to dawn curfew.

The RSPCA  encourages the containment of cats in an enclosed area within the owner’s property boundaries. It says containment of cats can help to protect them from disease and injury through fighting and accidents, increase the opportunity for owner-animal interaction and reduce the impact of hunting by cats and disturbance caused to neighbours.

“RSPCA Victoria is supportive of compulsory cat curfews enforced by councils as they encourage people to adopt a contained lifestyle for their pet cats, better protecting both the health and wellbeing of cats,” said Clare Brealey, the organisation’s Policy & Advocacy Manager.

“Ideally, RSPCA Victoria prefers owners to go beyond these curfews and keep their cats permanently contained to their property (for 24 hours a day). Cats can live happy and healthy lives at home, so long as they are provided with ample opportunity to display natural behaviours and stay physically and mentally healthy and stimulated.”

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The curfew proposal has been welcomed by many Brunswick pet owners who emailed or contacted Brunswick Voice on Facebook, with some surprised a curfew wasn’t already in place.

Patricia Dennis, who recently moved to Brunswick from Ascot Vale which is within the City of Moonee Valley, said her cat had benefitted from an 8pm to 8am curfew there.

“Birds, possums, lizards and invertebrates are all potential prey for cats,” she said. “A curfew is very effective as reducing the kills of a keen hunter.

“It also ensures a cat’s physical wellbeing by avoiding most fights. Our little lady was standing her ground against Tom cats and coming off second best. Since enforcing a harder curfew on her with zero time outside after her dinner she has largely avoided that.”

Others argued that cats should never be allowed out of their home.

“We should be managing our cats in the same way we are required to manage dogs (and other pet species),” said Brigid Marasco, a long-time cat owner who currently has three of them.

“I can’t understand any reasonable cat lover not understanding that cat welfare means keeping them enclosed – just like we do with our non-fur babies.”

But another Brunswick pet owner, who asked not to be named, said keeping cats contained went against their nature and likened a curfew to “jailing cats in their homes”.

“My cat hears the call of the wild,” she said. “He loves to go outside and check that his patch is as he left it. He rolls in the sun and appears to converse with other cats so long as they don’t step too far into his patch.

“At night, he is a hunter. He is doing his bit to keep down the mice and rat population. It’s in his nature. I’m grateful … Why would I keep him inside? It is torture for him.”

The City of Knox in the outer eastern suburbs attracted international media attention when it announced the introduction of a 24-hour curfew for its 7000 registered cats from the beginning of next month, although some residents are attempting to overturn the new rules.

The owners of cats found outside of their premises will incur a $91 fine for the first offence, jumping to $545 for each subsequent offence.

Bendigo, which was one of the first councils in Victoria to introduce a night time cat curfew, is now also considering making it a 24 hour law.