Darebin's cat curfew - is it working?

26th April 2023
By Jane Miller

Darebin Council's cat curfew

Darebin Council's cat curfew came into force on 1 January 2021. The curfew requires cats to be contained within their owner’s property boundary from 7pm to 7am every day. However, the curfew is not enforced by council.

Local government responsible

Generally local government is responsible for domestic animal regulations and increasingly councils are moving to contain cats to their owners properties to protect both wildlife - and much-loved pets - from coming to harm. Cats are healthier and live longer, happy lives if they are kept home and not allowed to roam freely. Cats kept safely contained are protected from vehicle strike, dog attack, cat fights, snakes, disease and other dangers.
James Tresize, of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub noted "We've got 38 local governments in Victoria that either have 24/7 containment or some form of curfew and that's to protect cats and also protect native wildlife."

The impact of roaming cats

On average, each pet cat that roams and hunts in Australia kills 40 native reptiles, 38 native birds and 44 native mammals per year. (Legge et al. 2020a).  Mammals are mostly predated on at night while birds are mostly preyed upon during the day.

CSIRO journal Wildlife research produced a special issue in 2020 - Cat ecology, impacts and management in Australia. It draws together recent research on cats – both domestic and feral - their impacts on wildlife and management strategies.
"Cats cover the entire continent and most of its larger islands; there are an estimated 1.4–5.6 million feral cats in the Australian bush (depending on recent rainfall patterns through the arid zone), over 0.7 million feral cats in towns and cities, and 3.8 million pet cats in people’s homes. Feral cats kill and eat over 2 billion vertebrates and over 1 billion invertebrates in Australia each year. One of the papers in this special issue turns the spotlight from feral cats onto pet cats, finding that Australian pet cats kill over 390 million vertebrates each year" (Legge et al. 2020b).

Merri Council's cat curfew positions

  • Whittlesea Council will be introducing a 24 hour curfew in August 2023,
  • Hume City Council Domestic Animal Management Plan 2017-2021 is under review - consultation closed on 17 April
  • Yarra encourages residents to control their pets - with no curfew in place.
  • Merri-bek has decided to concentrate on un-owned and semi-owned cats to address wildlife predation.

Assessing the Darebin Cat Curfew

Local groups - Friends of Darebin Creek, Friends of Edwardes Lake, FoMC, are looking to gather data on the extent to which the curfew is being observed in Darebin - anecdotally there are cats still out within curfew hours.

You can help by taking photos

The groups are keen to add to their current data pool - and we are asking residents to photograph any cats that they see in the street or in parks, outside curfew hours.
Council will accept images only with time and date stamp and location. There is an app which will provide that level of detail - Timestamp Camera App
If you take a timestamped photo of a roaming cat during curfew hours, post it to your Instagram account with the hashtag #DarebinCatsAfterCurfew, so the group can use it.
You can also follow the group from their Instagram account @darebin_cats_after_curfew.
The group is aiming to report to Darebin council at the end of the year.
To find designs for do-it-yourself cat enclosures or ready-made ones for purchase, do an internet search for ‘pet cat enclosures’ or ‘catio’ or ‘how to build a cat run & enclosure’.

Further reading:
Sarah Legge, et al., We need to worry about Bella and Charlie: the impacts of pet cats on Australian wildlife, 2020
Sarah Legge, et al., Herding cats: councils’ efforts to protect wildlife from roaming pets are hampered by state laws, 2020
Cat ecology impacts and management:  special issue of Wildlife Research, 2020
Amy Shima, Keeping wildlife safe by keeping cats contained, Mammal mail. Vol 22 No 3, June 2022



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