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Council to consider new Pilot Community Cat Program

Stray cats have been a problem in many communities for decades but Ipswich City Council is committed to exploring options in regards to how we manage this, up to community expectations.

The truth of the matter is that stray animal management requires significant resources in infrastructure and labour and therefore comes at a staggering costs to ratepayers.

Ipswich City Council is currently spending in excess of $1 million each year to manage stray cats alone…

  • The RSPCA contract to manage impounded dogs AND cats costs approx. $2.1 million per year (approx. $500/dog or cat managed) with approximately half the estimated costs being due to cat impoundments.
  • Any healthy stray cats that cannot be adopted are euthanised.
  • Other costs to ICC are associated with managing cat-related complaints (approx. 200 per year) by Animal Management Officers (in excess of 200 hours/year), and providing trap cages (500 requests/year).

The City of Ipswich impounded 1,896 cats in 2019 (9.5 cats/1000 residents). Total cat intake into RSPCA shelters from the City of Ipswich is approximately 3220 cats/ year (16 cats/1000 residents), which includes stray and owned cats brought directly to the shelter, in addition to impounded cats from the council. These rates are higher than the Australian average, due to a higher number of free roaming cats in Ipswich. Euthanasia rates are 14% for impounded cats, and 18% overall for all cats admitted to RSPCA shelters from the City of Ipswich.

Only 24% of residents surveyed in Ipswich are supportive of using euthanasia to manage stray cats which cannot be readily adopted; 94% are supportive of desexing and returning healthy cats to where they live. (This was based on a door knocking survey in the area, conducted pre-COVID19 in early 2020.)

The current method of cat management is also contributing to mental health damage of shelter staff tasked with killing healthy cats and kittens. Mental health disorders including post-traumatic stress disorders and increased suicide risk are documented in shelter and animal control staff tasked with killing healthy and treatable animals (Frommer 1999, Rohlf & Bennett 2005, Reeve 2005, Baran 2009, Scotney et al. 2015, Tiesman 2015).

On 29 May, fellow councillors and myself received a briefing from Dr Jacquie Rand of the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation (APWF) regarding its proposal for a Community Cat Program to operate in conjunction with Ipswich City Council. Dr Rand has done some amazing work around this subject and she and her team much be commended. Dr Rand is highly respected in her field as a Emeritus Professor of the University of Queensland and the Executive Director & Chief Scientist of the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation.

According to the APWF, the program would reduce Ipswich’s unowned cat population, the cat intake at the Ipswich Pound, and the cat euthanasia rate.

As part of this Community Cat Program, urban stray cats will be captured, desexed, vaccinated, microchipped and treated for parasites. Socialised cats and kittens will be adopted whenever possible, while unsocialised but healthy cats are returned to their original location. This will be coupled with community messaging on practical implementation of responsible cat caring behaviours.

APWF has been consulting with the community and conducting a scientific survey in Rosewood to determine community preferences for cat management. The preliminary outcomes are similar to other surveys conducted in other parts of Australia (including Brisbane) and overseas, showing approximately 80% of people support non-lethal methods of cat management.

The benefits of the program for the City of Ipswich have been identified as being…

  1. Direct investment of more than $1.7 million from APWF, RSPCA and other partners in desexing, vaccines, parasite control and community education about responsible cat caring behaviours.
  2. Reduction in cat-related complaints (expected to decrease by 50% from current levels of 200 per year)
  3. Significantly reduced cat impoundments and euthanasia (down 30-70% over 3 years)
  4. Reduced bio-security risks from free-roaming undesexed cats, including reduced disease risk to humans and pets
  5. Potential savings of infrastructure costs for the proposed new animal shelter (due to reduced need for space for cat housing).
  6. National and international recognition for the City of Ipswich as a leader in effective urban cat management.

After receiving this briefing from the APWF, I asked Ipswich City Council officers to prepare a report that explores the cost and feasibility of Council partnering with the APWF.

I believe that we must explore this as other than this Community Cat Program, there are presently two alternative options for animal management available to Ipswich City Council:

  1. Continuing the current approach; and
  2. High intensity culling.

At the General Purposes Committee July meeting, Council was advised by the prepared report that it was not feasible for Ipswich City Council to support the commencement of the program in its current form as there were several risks identified and the program cost to Council was not budgeted in the 2020-2021 budget.

After this report was presented, the APWF retracted their need for Council funding as they had received funds from elsewhere to support the program so this risk to Council was mitigated.

The other risks that the report identified are:

  • Potential Civil liability (i.e. unknowingly capturing owned cats and desexing them without the owner’s permission.
  • The lawfulness of the program under Council’s policy
  • Biosecurity risks
  • The program interfering with Council’s current program
  • Community consultation risks


During the meeting, I addressed the above risks and explained how they would be mitigated. Given that the financial obligations of Council are not a factor anymore, Ipswich City Council will now conduct a more detailed report and ‘legal health check’ for a pilot program.

I fully understand that when people complain to council about stray cats, they expect the result to be that cat being removed from the area.

I know that the proposed cat program by APWF may not see an immediate noticeable reduction of strays in the area as the program is designed around cats being stopped from breeding and therefore declining the population. Saying this however, other programs being run across the world have seen positive long term results. This type of program, if it does not have any risk to Council, would be beneficial in terms of saving costs.

Original Community Cat Program Proposal by APWF
Standard Operating Procedures of the Program by APWF
Biosecurity Letter
Biosecurity Permit
FAQs – Intro & Overview
FAQs – In General
FAQs – Wildlife
FAQs – Failed Methods
FAQs – Animal Welfare
FAQs – Veterinary
FAQs – Government
FAQs – Get Involved



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