All Councils should budget for cat desexing
THERE is a desperate need for Councils to provide desexing subsidies for residents on low incomes to help prevent the current unplanned ongoing explosion of cats in Australia!
In most Australian cities and towns, many more cats than dogs are wandering, being lost or abandoned and killed/euthanized in pounds and shelters, or having to scavenge for food and a safe place to live around shopping centres, factories, hospitals and schools, or in someone’s backyard.
AWLQ’s National Desexing Network (NDN) receives up to 50 calls daily from people around Australia needing financial assistance to desex their pets or a stray cat they have been feeding, with many more applying for NDN vouchers on-line. Often, they have shown compassion by taking in a stray cat, who then has an accidental litter of kittens. Before they can desex the mother cat (after her milk has dried), and find homes for the kittens, the cat is already pregnant again, and the kittens often as well! Many are still unaware that cats can become pregnant from 4 months of age and can breed continuously!
The NDN team often cannot find enough support to offer these callers. A small proportion of vet clinics participate by offering discounts to pension/concession card holders and animal organisations struggle to raise funds to provide subsidies. Some Councils provide some subsidies of $20 - $50 to go toward desexing cats or dogs, which is often not enough to enable residents on low incomes to afford the typical veterinary charges to desex their pets.
The Australian Cat Action Plan was developed as an initiative of AWLQ’s Getting to Zero (G2Z) program, to encourage consistency across states and territories in effective strategies to prevent unwanted cats. One of the key strategies is for Councils to budget annually over several years for an ongoing Cooperative Desexing Program to help residents in need to desex their cats, or an unowned stray cat they may be feeding.
The NDN Cooperative Desexing Program for Councils was developed to be fair to all parties. The owner on a low income pays a little, currently $55 for a female cat and $35 for a male cat, or any additional female cats, which most people can afford out of their weekly pension or low salary. Participating vet clinics agree to charge a set fee, currently $90 to desex a male cat and $120 for a female cat which covers all veterinary costs including wages and materials. Councils pay the gap, currently $55 for a male, and $65 for a female, cat. This subsidy to prevent an unwanted cat is much cheaper for Councils than having to collect, hold and kill an unwanted cat, which costs approximately $250, with an additional approximately $500 to desex, microchip, treat for fleas/worms, and for any injury or illness from stress, and care for if the cat is rehomed. With the current oversupply of cats, rehoming can take months.
As well as reducing costs, a Cooperative Desexing Program is proactive in preventing nuisance issues, feral cat populations and impacts on wildlife. It reduces euthanasia rates. Also, if State Governments and Councils are implementing laws which require cats to be desexed, as many now are, such a program is necessary to provide support for residents in need so they can comply with these laws. Where discounted registration is provided as an incentive to desex cats and dogs, often residents on low incomes can’t afford to register their animals, because they can’t afford to desex them to receive the discount.
Currently several Councils are budgeting from $10 000 - $50 000 for NDN Cooperative Cat Desexing Programs.
It is time for all Councils to budget for a Cooperative Cat Desexing Subsidy Program. State Governments should provide incentives to Councils to start and continue these programs as a regular budget item. Even the Federal Government who fund the Threatened Species Strategy should be providing funds to prevent unwanted cats in cities and towns, and on farms, rather than try to track cats down after they breed and become feral. It is more logical, economical and ethical.
So, if your Council currently does not fund an effective ongoing desexing program, please contact the Animal Management Department Manager, and encourage them to budget for a Cooperative Desexing Program.
They can go to the NDN website to Get Involved/Local Councils and submit their details for information and support (https://ndn.org.au/national-desexing-network/local-council/) or email NDN firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your Council does offer an effective desexing subsidy program, email NDN also, so that this program can be shared on the Australia-wide NDN directory for more people to find.
This article was contributed by Joy Verrinder, Strategic Director at AWLQ.
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