Blame heartless owners for abandonment of pet cats

As the Nelson SPCA, like all charities, is dependent on the generosity of its local community to survive, I am saddened by recent comments from Gareth Morgan suggesting that all SPCAs are currently involved in what is known as the TNR programme, or trap-neuter and release-return of cats.

The Nelson SPCA has never been part of the TNR programme as championed by some SPCAs. There are a number of SPCAs that have the same view as Nelson.

We believe that to release companion animals back to the wild or to marginal care is contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

The Nelson SPCA does rehome surrendered cats and dogs to the general public but we desex, vaccinate, de-flea, worm and microchip all these cats before they are adopted to their new owners. We also rehome many other species of companion animals.

Each local SPCA is run by its own board, which employs either volunteer or paid staff to carry out the functions as required by the board working under a constitution administered by SPCA National Council.

The major focus of every SPCA is the inspectorate and therefore the welfare of animals.

The SPCA movement wants to save animals, not be involved in pest management and euthanasia of any animal.

The Nelson SPCA supports the local bird recovery groups as long as these groups are not trapping and killing owned cats. The local groups, including the Brook St Sanctuary, are carrying out a magnificent job manned by mainly volunteers.

Too many people abandon their cats too easily. These neglected, abused and unwanted moggies are left to their own devices and usually not desexed, therefore quickly become wary of humans and the next generation becomes wild and usually lives on the edges of the community.

Many people talk of feral cats being those cats that have no contact with people. In reality a feral cat is a domesticated animal that can live within a community but often on the margins that has become wild through abandonment, becoming lost, neglected or worse, mistreated. Stray cats are those that are still dependent on people and are able to be handled. These animals are usually caught, surrendered to SPCAs and either claimed or rehomed.

One of the most concerning and recurring problems that our SPCA has to deal with is unwanted and abandoned cats.

Too many people have had enough of their cat or, even more simply, are moving house and cannot be bothered to take their pet with them.

Other folk take their unwanted cat out to a country area and just release it. A large percentage of these owners simply have not bothered to desex, vaccinate or worm their wee moggy while this poor animal has been part of their family.

The owner who just walks away or, even worse, the owner who deliberately abandons their chosen pet by leaving this poor, in many ways defenceless, animal at the end of Eves Valley, Enner Glen, the Wairoa Gorge, halfway down Palmers Rd, the forestry at the top of the Spooner Ridge, Tahunanui Beach or at any number of other out of the way places in our lovely district, is the real offender of this ever-increasing problem.

These mainly entire animals start to breed, causing havoc not only to native birds but to skinks, lizards, invertebrates and other fauna, including rodents, in order to feed their offspring.

Should the local councils become responsible for these wild and feral animals? We believe the councils have an obligation to ensure these now wild and feral animals are kept in control.

The SPCA should not be accountable for these animals that a certain section of our community has liberated back to the wild. This reinforces the call for compulsory microchipping of all cats and to a certain extent, compulsory registration.

The cat-owning fraternity will only encounter severe conditions set by their communities, such as restricted numbers per household, microchipping (for identification of wayward animals and owners), curfews, compulsory desexing and registration.

The number of people who dislike or even loathe cats is growing and will continue to swell as the numbers of unwanted, feral and wild cats increases.

This SPCA would support some sort of registration, compulsory microchipping and desexing of cats in order to try and catch those people who wilfully abandon their moggies when they shift house, become bored with their pet or are too lazy to care.

The most striking aspect in all of this is that it is not the cats' fault.

  • Craig Crowley is an animal welfare investigator for the Nelson SPCA.