Banana shire also offers $5 for feral kitten scalps, $30 for dingoes or wild dogs and $10 for foxes, despite claims of animal cruelty
A Queensland local council will not back down on a controversial bounty that offers $10 for the scalps of feral cats, despite animal rights activists calling it cruel and unnecessary.
Banana shire introduced the bounty last month, which offers $10 for the scalp of an adult feral cat, and $5 for a kitten. Feral cats are estimated to kill 750,000 birds a day in Australia, and council staff said the bounty came in response to “an exploding population” of feral cats hunting native wildlife.
But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has mounted a campaign against the policy, targeting the small town of Biloela, the council’s headquarters.
Last week Peta erected a billboard 20km from the council chambers that warned local pet owners that their cats were at risk. The billboard, which will be left up for a month, reads: “Warning: cats at risk outdoors. They need your protection. Keep them safe inside.”
A Peta spokeswoman, Laura Weyman-Jones, said the bounty was “cruel” and would not solve the problem.
“Research tells us that lethal control doesn’t provide a long-term solution to the issue of invasive animal populations,” she said. “In fact, it can backfire by causing a spike in the food supply and prompt accelerated breeding.
“The only real solution to Australia’s feral cat problem is to embark on a widespread sterilsation campaign, where funds are directed towards immunocontraceptive solutions that will humanely and effectively decrease homeless cat populations.
“Not only is a cat scalp bounty cruel, it likely won’t have the desired long-term effect of lowering the population. Instead, we’ll end up in an endless and expensive killing cycle.”
But John McDougall, the director of council services, said any sterilisation needed to be combined with humane culling to be effective.
“I actually applaud Peta for their billboard,” he said. “It’s really around responsible pet ownership.
“I certainly have no problem with people who want to look at sterilising feral cats, but the problem is that it is almost impossible for a feral cat to turn into a domestic type cat. These cats are extremely aggressive; they’ve got an instinct in them now to want to hunt.
“The answer is more of a collective approach – combining sterilisation with the culling program. Even if we did sterilise all feral cats in our region, they’d still kill hundreds, if not thousands, of wildlife before the end of their life.”
McDougall said domestic cats were not in danger of being hunted because the bounty applied only to cats killed on rural properties.
“If people know where their cats are and they’re in a domestic situation, or in town, there is no risk whatsoever,” he said.
However, Emma Thompson, a resident who makes cat tags and pet supplies, said she had begun offering free postage to Banana shire residents who feared their domestic cats would be unwittingly hunted.
“My brother, a cat owner in the Banana shire, has concerns that his cats may fall victim [even though microchipped] to the bounty,” she said.
“We have had a number of orders since the Banana shire council announcement, not only from Banana shire residents but those in surrounding shires with concerns their councils will follow suit.
“Domesticated cats could be easily mistaken as feral, due to their antisocial natures, and the fact that cats are creatures of the night. I think a bounty that involves or potentially involves or encourages cruelty and harm to any animal is despicable.”
By Monday, Banana shire had not yet received any claims on the bounty, but has set aside $25,000. The council also offers a bounty of $30 for dingo or wild dog scalps, and $10 for fox scalps.
Peta has said it will continue its campaign for a non-lethal solution, as well as generally urging cat owners to keep their pets indoors and not add to the feral population. A petition opposing the cull, started by Alley Cat Rescue, an international animal rights group, had been signed by 133,000 people by Monday afternoon.
But McDougall said the council would stick to the bounty.
“You can drive any road at night in the Banana shire and you can see feral cats on the side of the road at any stage,” he said. “A number of landholders have expressed concerns, as have wildlife preservation authorities within the shire.
“Every landowner in our shire will do this humanely, using a method that is approved, which is usually by gunshot. Scalping only occurs after the animal is deceased. It’s similar to what we’ve done for wild dogs and foxes for decades.
“We’d like to let our kids and grandchildren see mammals and birds in the native environment for decades to come, and this is a measure no different from the pigs and foxes that we are trying to control. We are not taking it lightly.”Read more at theguardian.com