Domestic house cats may soon be banned in Omaui, a small, coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand.
The proposed ban would impose a "sunset clause" on the house cats of Omaui, meaning that once a cat has passed, its owners would not be allowed to replace it. The ban on cats would start out by enforcing an indoor-only policy for all domestic cats.
If the policy is approved, cat owners will have six months to register existing cats with the regional council, also having them microchipped and neutered.
According to the New York Times, Omaui is home to just 35 people and about seven or eight cats. It begs the question - why the need to completely ban cats? According to Environment Southland, the council responsible for planning in the region, the ban is sorely needed to protect native wildlife - namely its bounty of local bird and lizard species.
Ali Meade, the regional council’s biosecurity and biodiversity manager, said cats pose real risks to New Zealand’s unique wildlife species, which had "evolved in isolation from mammals."
Some of New Zealand's unique fauna, especially its flightless birds, are "much more vulnerable" to predation than species in other countries, according to Meade, because they evolved without the presence of mammals that hunted them.
“They grew up with strange ways of living, like birds that nest on the ground and can’t fly; really naïve behaviors,” Meade said. As an island nation, New Zealand became home to predatory mammals only after settlers arrived.
The proposed ban has caused something of a rift in the community, namely because residents had not been "properly consulted" about the proposal, according to Terry Dean, a longtime resident. Another resident, Nico Jarvis, told Buzzfeed News that she was only informed of the potential cat ban by reporters who came to the community to ask questions.
"I am aware of eight other residents who were also unaware that Environment Southland are attempting to impose a cat ban," she said.
She is pushing for transparency and due diligence on the council's part. "I wish to see the evidence they have regarding the impact of domestic cats in Omaui's reserves."
John Collins, chairman of the Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust, believes that with domestic cats kept from predating the natural environment and trapping programs instituted for feral cats, Omaui may be able to reintroduce some of New Zealand's rarer bird species.
"We're not cat haters, it's about being responsible," he said. "Why would you want to live in a place where you're destroying the environment?"
What do you think about this "cat ban"? Let us know in the comments!