Gisborne's stray cat population is set to skyrocket after the local SPCA decided it would no longer collect the animals because it no longer wanted to kill healthy cats.
Gisborne District Council, which paid the SPCA to pick up the cats, said the decision could result in more inhumane treatment, more bird deaths and the spread of animal disease.
Between 600 and 1000 abandoned cats are collected each year in the district.
The council is now advising residents to call private pest control contractors if they are worried about strays. Residents will have to pay to have the cats collected.
Council environment and planning manager Hans van Kregten said the cat population would skyrocket until the council found another operator to collect and euthanase strays. This was likely to happen within the next few months.
Since 1996 the SPCA has trapped and managed the cats, with some being killed. The council paid the SPCA $16,600 a year to deal with unwanted cats.
This arrangement ceased on June 30 after the SPCA told the council that its new "Saving Lives" campaign favoured neutering and returning cats instead of killing them.
The campaign aimed to "eliminate the need to kill stray cats by establishing a network of carers to attend to cat colonies" and "to accept and enforce the trap/neuter/return system for colony management".
The SPCA told the council this system could not be carried out in Gisborne because its facilities were inadequate to house the cats while waiting for desexing by vets.
Mr van Kregten said the SPCA's decision could result in residents disposing of cats inhumanely. "The outcome for cats may be worse."
The council would ensure cats were euthanased in a humane manner, he said.
SPCA national chief inspector Charles Cadwallader said the organisation was surprised to learn how many cats the Gisborne branch had been killing for the council, as pest control was not what the SPCA stood for.
Just killing the cats was a waste of council money as "all that happens is the niche you've made in the ecosystem fills up with more cats and they breed".
"You've got to send out desexed cats that can't breed and within one life-cycle they're gone."
The SPCA was putting together a presentation in a bid to show the council the value of an improved service.
- The Dominion Post