Fur flies over town’s ‘cat ban’
RESIDENTS in a usually sleep seaside village in New Zealand's South Island are getting their claws out over a proposed "cat ban".
Environmental authorities in the Southland region have proposed new rules that would see pet owners of the tiny township of Omaui have to neuter their felines and not replace them once they died.
The area is home to reserves and native bush areas and Environment Southland says house cats are a threat to birds, lizards, bugs and plants.
But in the day since the plan became public this week, the department says it's been flooded with calls and hundreds of online comments from both sides of the debate.
Local environment group Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust lobbied for the changes, and chair John Collins says its simply not the right place to have cats. "There's a lot of people who realise our native wildlife is in decline big time and we need to do something about it," he said.
"We've expected [a strong reply], it's an emotional issue … We're not cat haters. This is about responsible pet ownership … It's a high-value conservation area." But others are adamant they will fight the proposal.
Nico Jarvis, who moved to the seaside community five years ago and owns three cats, says her pets are the only way to deal with rodents in the area. ''It's like a police state … It's not even regulating people's ability to have a cat. It's saying you can't have a cat," she told the Otago Daily Times. A "cat ban" was always going to be contentious.
Similar proposals to phase out felines by politicians in New Zealand in recent years have been met with fierce debate.
Kiwis in 2016 owned about 1.13 million cats, about 1.5 for every household in the country, according to the New Zealand Companion Animal Council.