Pet Owners in Australian City Could Be Fined More Than $400 for Letting Cats Off Their Property

Starting on October 1, 2021, the city of Knox in Melbourne, Australia, will be a bad place to be a cat.

On that date, the Knox City Council will instate an indefinite 24/7 cat curfew in an effort to protect cats from illness and injury as well as local wildlife from predation.

Per the rules of the curfew, cat owners will be required to keep their feline companions on their property at all times or face financial repercussions.

While the city council has announced that it will not issue any fines for the first six months to allow residents to adjust to the new normal, transgressors could be slapped with a $91 AUD ($68.24 USD) fine for their first offense, and a $545 AUD ($408.71 USD) fine for every subsequent offense once that time period concludes.

"To think that I could get charged $500 just because my cat has run across the street is a bit ... it's stressful," resident Madeline White, who owns an adventurous two-year-old ragdoll named Franklin, told 9 News. "It's quite a lot of money."

Feral cats and outdoor domestic cats are thought to wreak incredible havoc on biodiversity. In a widely covered 2013 study, researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology's Migratory Bird Institute and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Migratory Birds estimated that free-ranging felines kill between 1.3 and 4.0 billion birds as well as 6.3 to 22.3 billion mammals in the U.S. annually.

For these reasons, local ecologists and environmentalists are strongly in favor of the policy change. Jim Radford, the principal research fellow in the department of ecology, environment, and evolution at La Trobe University in Melbourne, told 7 News that the curfew will significantly reduce bat, bird, possum, and reptile casualties.

"Cat containment at all times is just another element of responsible pet ownership," he said.

In addition to confining them to houses, backyards, and other domestic spaces and structures, Knox cat owners will be required to register, microchip, and sterilize their pets, not necessarily in that order. Failure to comply with the first of these regulations is punishable by a fine of $330 AUD ($246.66 USD). City council members will be conducting random and regular door-knocking sessions for monitoring purposes.

However, Knox is not the only city in Australia to take measures to curb roaming among cats. In 2019, the district council of Mount Barker, a town located roughly 20 miles from Adelaide, announced plans to implement a cat curfew as well as limit the number of cats per household to two.

Cats walk outdoors in Brazil.
The Australian city of Knox has announced plans to implement a 24/7 cat curfew this October. In this photo, cats enjoy recreation outdoors at an animal shelter in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP/Getty Images