Cat house neighbours offered traps

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2014

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Fed-up neighbours of an Invercargill property with three dozen cats are welcome to pick up traps from the city council to catch and then dispose of the felines, Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King has suggested.

His comments follow revelations that a bylaw upon which some Invercargill residents had their hopes pinned to stop cats from swarming through their quiet neighbourhood streets is ineffective, cumbersome and expensive.

The keeping animals bylaw restricts the number of cats at each property in Invercargill to three.

But when the council tried to enforce the bylaw on a woman and son who have almost 40 cats, it faced resistance and must now go to court to get rid of all but three of the cats.

The council had no power to remove the cats without going through the courts, King said.

He conceded that the process was frustrating for all involved, but suggested the neighbours use several of the council's cat traps while waiting for it to go to court.

Residents who had problems with cats were able to get cat traps from the council and use them, as long as they were returned without the cat inside, he said.

"We don't make inquiries about what has happened, as long as it is returned."

Neighbours had high hopes of the bylaw when it was put in place in September, but they have been left frustrated as the process draws out and a court case beckons.

One neighbour said she thought the bylaw would have allowed council staff to catch the cats and remove them, but she has been left disappointed as the dozens of cats continue to wander the small street.

"The man from the council said they can't just go in there and take the cats. I thought that is what he was going to be doing, otherwise there is no point."

Invercargill City Council environmental health manager John Youngson said he understood the situation was frustrating for neighbours, but it was the first time the council had enforced the bylaw and it was a chance to assess its strengths and weaknesses.

The city council might strengthen the bylaw to allow its staff to catch the cats rather than going to court, he said.

The council hoped to proceed to court as soon as possible, but conceded it may take weeks.

The Invercargill woman who has the cats received two weeks' notice to get rid of the animals more than a fortnight ago but had not done so.

Regulatory services committee chairman Darren Ludlow said the bylaw was already "breaking new ground" but if it was not going far enough, then the council would "look to tighten the loopholes".

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Youngson encouraged other people with neighbours who had an excessive number of cats to contact the council, so it could deal with the matter early.

- The Southland Times

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