New restrictions put on cats’ movements causes public uproar

In Walldorf, Germany, citizens are dismayed by a unique rule regarding cats. As of May 2022, the municipality of Walldorf has imposed a temporary lockdown on pusses.

During summer, if house cats are caught outside unaccompanied, their owners could face a fine of up to €50,000, as a local newspaper explained:

“The district administration office in the Rhine Neckar district wants to induce residents to keep their house cats indoors during the summer, if necessary, by imposing a hefty fine.”

The motivation behind this odd decision is to protect an endangered bird species: the crested lark. Unfortunately, these young birds can get attacked by felines.

If all goes as planned by the local authorities, cats may no longer be left alone outside from April until August. According to Cat news, the ban is valid until 2025, meaning cats will be kept inside during summer for the next three years.

A controversy

Local authorities have brushed off the criticism stating that crested larks were in a perilous situation. Besides, they noted that each young bird was critical to the long-term survival of the species threatened with extinction.

However, critics remained vocal. Julia Stubenbord, an animal protection commissioner, gave her negative opinion to the Frankfurter Tageszeitung:

“It is very important not to keep cats locked up for longer. That means considerable stress and suffering if you completely curtail free access.”

The regional chairman of the Walldorf/Wiesloch animal welfare association also chimed in. In his interview, Volker Stutz requested the public to remain calm. Furthermore, he intends to go to court to stop what he sees as an extreme measure.

On the other hand, the nature conservation association defends the summer lockdown for cats. The association pointed out that crested larks’ extinction in the Rhine Neckar district is not solely due to free-roaming cats, but that the pets still represent an additional negative factor.

Cats are put on a leash

Cat owners who fail to keep their pets under home arrest face a €500 punishment. Additionally, if the cat injures or kills one of the larks, the owner may be liable for up to €50,000.

However, owners who still want to go out with their pets can apply for a special permit.

This permit is granted only if said owners can prove beforehand that their animals will not go through bird protection areas. For this purpose, a GPS collar would have to record the corresponding movement data, which would then be made available to the office.

Furthermore, the office advises walking the cat on a leash or a harness, the leash should be less than two meters long.

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