Clunes residents call for change as feral cats take over

Fed up:Jackie Rozenfeld, Cheryl Clapton and Steve Crane with dozens of Clunes residents who are calling for a cull of feral cats throughout the town.  Picture: Kate Healy.
Fed up:Jackie Rozenfeld, Cheryl Clapton and Steve Crane with dozens of Clunes residents who are calling for a cull of feral cats throughout the town. Picture: Kate Healy.

A group of Clunes residents are calling on the Hepburn Shire to step up its efforts to curb the growing number of feral cats present throughout the town.     

The group claims the town has become inundated by the pests over the past three years, causing damage to native wildlife and pets. 

Resident Cheryl Clapton said in 2015 she caught nine ferals in one day, however the problem still persisted.  

Fellow local Jackie Rozenfeld said despite repeated requests for action from the community, council had done little to address the ongoing concern.   

She said while most residents were aware of the problem, some continued to feed the pests which led to further breeding.  

“If you feed them they will be healthier and it will be easier for them to reproduce,” Ms Rozenfeld said.  “If the council isn’t responding to the needs of the community then we’re helpless.”

Currently Hepburn Shire residents wishing to get rid of feral cats in their area are required to hire a cage off council and then notify council to pick the animal up or transport the feral to the Ballarat RSPCA themselves. 

Complainants are also required to issue fliers across the neighbourhood to advise people the cage is being set.   

“I’ve done countless trips between here and the RSPCA in Ballarat but we need more cages out here,” Ms Rozenfeld said.   

The call comes after the federal government pledged $5 million in February to combat the threat of feral cats across the country, who are threatening to wipe out 124 species nationwide.   

The government sanctioned action aims to cull two million cats across Australia between now and 2020, with Threatened Species commissioner Gregory Andrews calling on every mayor to provide free euthanasia for trapped feral cats.   

Hepburn Shire infrastructure general manager Bruce Lucas said feral cats were a problem across Australia and “residents and council need to work together to tackle this community issue”. 

“If the residents know where the feral cats may be living or seeking food, they should report this to council so that our officers can discuss the issue with the owner of the property where the cats are,” Mr Lucas said.

“Council will continue to work on this issue and respond to the concerns raised.”  

A cat de-sexing subsidy has also been adopted as part of the 2017/18 council budget, which is expected to be made available to residents soon.  

While some Victorian councils legally require cat owners to de-sex their pets, this is not a requirement in the Hepburn Shire.  

Ms Rozenfeldsaid  in the long term the state government would need to legislate the mandatory de-sexing of all cats outside other than breeders with specific permits in order to help control the spread of the pests. 

“If cats are not de-sexed because they will be bred, then they need to be contained at all times,” Ms Rozenfeld said.    

Each feral cat kills about 1000 native animals every year.