Paws and Reflect - The background to this proposed bylaw

Cats are cherished members of our households, providing us with much joy and companionship.

However, as responsible pet owners, we recognise that they can also negatively impact our neighbours and wildlife. Love for these animals needs to be balanced with the well-being of our communities and the valuable work of rescue organisations such as SPCA and wildlife protection organisations such as Forest & Bird.

Nelson City Council’s elected members have expressed support for measures to address cat management in Whakatū Nelson.

In the absence of central government legislation, one option available to Council is a bylaw. At a meeting in October 2023, Councillors requested Council staff collect options for consulting on a cat management bylaw that would require mandatory microchipping, microchip registration, and desexing for all companion cats in the region.

The first step in that process is to engage with the Nelson community to determine any issues with companion cats and assess whether there is public support for a bylaw to address them.

What’s being proposed?

Council is considering a bylaw as a way of addressing some of the cat nuisance problems in Whakatū Nelson. Our bylaw could focus on mandatory microchipping, microchip registration, and desexing of companion cats in Nelson, a key step in responsible cat ownership.

Microchipping and microchip registration support cat welfare by quickly reuniting lost cats with their families, while reducing the financial burden on communities, rescue centres and veterinary clinics. For example, when a lost cat cannot easily be identified and reunited with their family, the rescue centres and vets use valuable resources caring for the cat, trying to track down their owners and if all else fails, rehoming the cat. Lost cats can also become permanently stray cats (SPCA: National Policy Brief for New Zealand).

A quick reunion also places far less stress on a displaced cat. By registering the microchip with the New Zealand Companion Animal Register (NZCAR), cat owners close the loop by ensuring that that the cat’s microchip number is linked to their contact information.

Nationally, cat overpopulation results in thousands of unwanted cats and kittens being abandoned, killed inhumanely or left with welfare organisations each year. Desexing cats is an effective way to help lessen this problem. To prevent unwanted kittens, early age desexing can be undertaken provided the young cat is in good health.

What next?

Before we proceed with work on the proposed bylaw, we would like to gather community feedback on cat ownership in Whakatū Nelson and whether there is support for its introduction.

This is different to feral and stray cat management which is being dealt with through a current review of the Tasman-Nelson Regional Pest Management Plan.