Animal welfare

Animal protection organizations denounce Germany’s ban on outdoor cats

Cat owners in the German town of Walldorf were ordered this week to keep their pets indoors until the end of August to protect a rare bird during its breeding season.

The decree aims to help save the crested lark, which nests on the ground and is therefore easy prey for cat hunters.

The bird’s population in Western Europe has declined sharply in recent decades. Although it is listed as a species of least concern in Europe by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“Among other things, the survival of the species depends on each chick,” Walldorf authorities said.

The rule applies to all cats in the southern part of the city and will be repeated the next three years from April to August.

Owners risk a €500 fine if their cat is found wandering outside and can be slapped with a fine of up to €50,000 if their pet injures or kills a crested lark.

Should I keep my cat indoors?

If you live in Walldorf, this question is no longer in your hands, but for those in other regions, the answer may not be so clear cut.

“Suddenly preventing habituated cats from going outside means immense restrictions and stress for the animals,” Deutscher Tierschutzbund, Germany’s largest animal welfare organization, said in a statement to Euronews Green.

“The negative influence of cats on the songbird population is in any case controversial and, to our knowledge, has not yet been proven for the crested lark in Walldorf.”

The organization supports measures to protect the crested lark, but thinks that no animal can be treated as a second class animal.

“Defining domestic cats as ‘culprits’ for the endangerment of certain bird species also blames them for the fact that humans have destroyed the habitats and food supplies of wild species over a long period of time. , thereby threatening their existence,” the statement concluded.

This sentiment is shared by Daniela Schneider, an activist from Four Paws Germany.

“The influence of intensive agriculture, monocultures, insect mortality and increasing land development is probably greater than that of some cats chasing birds,” she told Euronews Green.

“These causes are caused by humans. It would be better to fight the real causes than to blame the cats for it.

Are cats a danger to wildlife?

The debate over whether cats should be free to roam can be contentious. The European pet food industry has found that 26% of all households in Europe own at least one cat. This inevitably leads to a quarter of the population having strong feelings about it.

A 2013 study estimated that free-ranging domestic cats in the United States alone kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals per year. However, the authors acknowledged that ownerless cats are responsible for the majority of this mortality.

The most recent figures from the Mammal Society indicate that cats in the UK catch up to 100 million animals in spring and summer, including 27 million birds. According to them, the most frequently caught bird species are house sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds and starlings.

Despite these statistics, the UK’s largest conservation charity, RSPB, says there is no clear scientific evidence that this is causing bird populations to decline.

“Millions of birds die naturally each year, mostly from starvation, disease or other forms of predation,” they state on their website.

“It’s likely that most birds killed by cats would have died of other causes anyway before the next breeding season, so cats are unlikely to have a major impact on populations.”

In Walldorf, the regional newspaper Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung reported on Wednesday that the head of the local animal protection association was considering taking legal action to challenge the “disproportionate” order.

Cat owners affected by the new decree can exercise their right of opposition until mid-June.