A new four-year plan for Knox aims to foster safe and responsible pet ownership and support residents in issues relating to domestic and stray dogs and cats.
The Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-2025 was developed after reviewing feedback from more than 3,400 participants.
Knox City Council Mayor, Cr Susan Laukens said the plan aimed to balance the needs and expectations of all pet owners and non-pet owners in Knox.
As at September 2021, Knox had 18,233 registered dogs and 7,294 registered cats.
Some of the main issues identified by community members and addressed by the plan include the need for: increased community education about dog off leash rules and areas; support to assist with the introduction of the cat curfew previously approved by Council; solutions to address the problem of dog waste not being collected and disposed of properly; and the need for education and communication campaigns to increase community awareness of responsible pet ownership, including registration, desexing, microchipping and having your dog under effective control.
The plan includes actions to reduce incidents of dogs wandering at large and dog attacks, and address the issue of feral and nuisance cats, which were identified as community concerns.
“We are building and enhancing existing Council initiatives and services to better manage dogs and cats in our municipality,” Cr Laukens said.
“Initiatives under the plan include increasing public education about responsible pet ownership to improve pet registration rates, address dog waste in public spaces and reduce pet nuisances to neighbours.
“Council is also exploring a pet companionship program to improve health and wellbeing for socially isolated and lonely, older residents living alone.”
Council will partner with its animal pound provider, Animal Aid, to promote initiatives including a ‘Seniors for Seniors’ adoption program with discounted adoption for pets over eight years old by senior card holders, free cat microchipping and discounted cat and dog desexing.
Community members consulted in the development of the plan said they valued many animal management services provided by Council, including collecting and returning stray dogs and cats to their owners, investigating animal cruelty, investigating dog attacks on other animals and people, investigating illegal dog and cat breeders, providing education about responsible pet ownership, responding to reports of nuisance dogs and cats, and reducing euthanasia rates through rehoming and adoptions.
Council will continue to provide the first year of registration free for any cat or dog purchased from a registered animal shelter.
Registrations for cats and dogs are due for renewal by 10 April. Up-to-date information is vital in helping Council reunite lost pets with their owners.
Under the plan, Council will advocate to the Victorian Government to provide a further discount to annual registrations for dog owners if their dog is both desexed and trained by a recognised organisation.
Council will also advocate for the introduction of a centralised statewide animal registration database.
The plan includes measures to support cat owners adjust to a new requirement to keep their cats on their property at all times starting 10 April 2022. This change is designed to keep cats safe, protect wildlife and assist in reducing nuisance to neighbours.
“When cats are kept safe at home they can live up to four times longer than cats that are allowed to roam,” Cr Laukens said.
“We appreciate this is a new rule for cat owners so for the first six months the emphasis will be on assisting cat owners in adapting to the change and no fines will be issued.”
Helpful resources on how to keep your cat happy and healthy at home will be mailed to all registered cat owners.