Time for SPCA to Admit it Doesn’t Deal in Unowned Cats

Cat in a tree, by wikimedia/Cadix

Cat in a tree, by wikimedia/Cadix

We have been calling for cat management for some time – for cat owners to be responsible for their cats and the Council to step up and take responsibility for unowned cats. Many people think it is currently the SPCA’s job to deal with unowned ‘stray’ cats – this is the reason why some people donate – but they don’t realize the SPCA has in fact walked away from this role. Documents we have received confirm this – all that remains is for the SPCA to publicly own up to the fact.

Since we started our campaign on cats, we have received hundreds of messages of support from landowners frustrated with wandering cats coming on their property and killing wildlife, spreading disease and causing nuisance. They all ask why there is nothing they can do about it. These people all share one thing in common – they started with contacting the SPCA. And the SPCA did nothing. Yet in many areas local SPCAs and their sister organisations continue to clip the ticket, receiving Council funding for ostensibly doing something about this problem.

We have been handed documents dated 31 March that give a clear picture of what the Wellington SPCA will or won’t do:

If a cat is not handleable, then we cannot rehome the cat – and Wellington SPCA does not provide a service to trap and euthanize healthy cats. Wild cats are a community issue and one that is prevalent across the country.

Pretty categorical, they won’t do anything to help you. Instead, they suggest you find the owner (a time consuming and often thankless task) or adopt the cat yourself. As a last resort they offer to neuter the cat and return it to the area you got it from. They even ask you to keep feeding it. Not much help, unless you had concerns about the cat’s mating habits.

So why do we persist with this myth that the SPCA has a role in this area? Vet Allan Probert has also joined the call for the SPCA to come clean in a recent letter to the Wellingtonian.

Some other charities have stepped into the breach and are trying to deal with stray cats, but with limited resources. In Auckland the Lonely Miaow is active, and in Wellington there is the Cats Protection League. Both of these organisations have a philosophy that every cat should be an owned cat – eminently sensible stuff. However their work is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff at best. In the meantime people, wildlife and cats themselves suffer.

Without someone taking responsibility for stray cats, there is nothing to make cat owners take responsibility for their cats. The result is that cats have full rights to wander with impunity, and there is nothing as a property owner you can do about it. That’s right, cats have more rights than you do. Such is the bizarre position they inhabit in our psyche.

In many ways we feel sorry for the SPCA. Sorting our stray cat problem is a nasty job, and not one that sits well with a group that is against cruelty to animals. So it is time they admit this is not their role, and join our call for management of unowned cats to be picked up the Councils.