Fur flies over cat-trap call

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014

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An Invercargill woman whose three dozen cats are infuriating her neighbours is now keeping them inside her house, a move that could result in a prosecution under the Health Act.

Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King sparked outrage and attracted an onslaught of national media after suggesting in The Southland Times her neighbours get rid of the cats by trapping them in council-provided traps and disposing of them.

His comments appalled some and outraged others, with hundreds commenting on the story online and even more taking to social media to state their support or disgust for King.

Comments ranged from "kill them all" and "with winter coming soon, cats are a really great thing to have, you turn them inside out and they make nice cosy slippers" to people saying King should not be in such a position of power if he was going to make inflammatory comments.

"That would be the most stupidest statement to come out of the mouth of someone in his position," one commenter said.

However, while King was standing by his suggestion, the woman had moved her cats inside, allowing the council to look at other methods of prosecution, he said.

She could now be prosecuted under the Health Act or the Resource Management Act, and the council would fully explore its legal options today when it meets with lawyers to proceed with court action, he said. "It's completely intolerable for the neighbours."

The new avenues for prosecution mean the cats could be gone within a week, King said.

The council has been trying to make the woman comply with its new keeping animals bylaw, which states she can have only three cats, but its efforts have been hampered by resistance from the woman and her son.

However, the SPCA fielded dozens of calls from people appalled by Mr King's comments.

SPCA Southland operations manager Richard Hay said the phone had been ringing nonstop with people wanting to know how to help the woman.

Some had offered money to help build an enclosure on the woman's property, and expressed their disgust at Mr King's comments, he said. But his suggestion had been ineffective in the past when neighbours of the woman had got traps and took the cats to the shelter.

Those cats then had to be legally returned to the woman because she came to collect them within seven days, Mr Hay said.

The only way that could be stopped from repeating was if court action was taken, he said.

Southland SPCA chairwoman Rachel Hucklebridge said King's choice of wording was poor, but correct. People were able to get rid of cats that were on their property if it was done humanely but the SPCA encouraged them to take the cats to the shelter or a vet to be put down, she said.

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Hucklebridge said she had been in contact with the cat owner, who was "devastated". She loved her cats, fed them and looked after with them and the organisation had worked with her to ensure all of them were desexed.

"It is devastating for her because for whatever reason she is keeping them, she loves them. We will continue to try and help support her through this."

The Southland Times was unable to reach the woman for comment as she has banned the company from entering her property.

- The Southland Times

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