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Hawkesbury Kitten Crisis as Desexing Plan Rejected

Feb 3, 2024

Hawkesbury City Council (HCC) has voted against the allocation of $5000 to tackle the growing crisis of abandoned cats within the Local Government Area (LGA). The decision to reject the plan was passed by the casting vote of he Mayor Sarah McMahon and comes as the LGA struggles with an overwhelming number of kittens, leading to desperate measures by animal welfare organisations.

Animal Welfare League, Hawkesbury Branch Secretary Anne Robbie told Tuesday’s Council Meeting that the situation was desperate.

“It’s just overwhelming, there have been hundreds and hundreds [of abandoned cats]. Because of the lack of space, we’ve been saying to people; ‘If you can foster the kittens, we’ll desex the mum for you, and you take the mum, and you’re next on the list we can take kittens in once we have space.'”

Cat rescue organisations, foster carers, and the animal shelter are grappling with an unprecedented number of abandoned cats and kittens, surpassing their capacity.

Greens Councillor Danielle Wheeler, who is in custody of five kittens born from a stray cat, told the meeting that immediate assistance was required to help deal with the emergency and proposed allocating $5000 to subsidise a desexing program in the Hawkesbury. 

But the plan was shot down when Labor Councillor Amanda Kotlash put forward an amended motion rejecting the $5000 plan saying there needed to be further investigation and data, before a decision could be made. Her amended motion was supported by the controlling Liberal/Labor block of Crs. Sarah McMahon, Patrick Connolly, Amanda Kotlash, Barry Calvert, Jill Reardon and Paul Veigel. Those who voted against the motion were Crs. Danielle Wheeler, Eddie Dogramci, Shane Duric, Mary Lyons-Buckett, Les Sheather and Nathan Zamprogno.

Neighbouring Penrith Council gives AWL $5000 annually towards the desexing program. As a result, the successful amendment by Cr. Kotlash, HCC won’t provide any financial assistance this financial year to a desexing program to help manage the number of kittens being born and abandoned.For cats who can give birth from approximately six months old, this will be too late. 

Meanwhile, cat rescue organisations, foster carers, and the animal shelter are grappling with an unprecedented number of abandoned cats and kittens, surpassing their capacity. “‘We are not going to adopt or kill our way out of urban cat population problem…We have to do a lot more,” Robbie said.

Residents, increasingly desperate, have turned to social media platforms like Facebook to seek help with abandoned cats appearing on their doorsteps.Cr. Wheeler was clearly disheartened by the defeat of the motion. “There are serious problems with cats and dogs in the Hawkesbury. This NoM asks for $5000 as a stopgap measure for the next five months, and we can’t do that. That’s too hard,” she  said.

Under Wheeler’s plan the desexing program would have been run by the Council or Animal Welfare League and funded through a quarterly review variation. It also proposed including at least $10,000 in the 2024/25 budget for the program.

Despite the setback, Cr. Wheeler vowed to reintroduce the motion at the next meeting. Expressing disappointment, she wrote on her Facebook page, “I am really disappointed that Council voted not to support my motion to allocate $5000 to desexing programs in the next few months.”

Cr. Wheeler said the issue goes beyond the financial cost to the council; it is about preventing cruelty. With the cost of desexing at $260, she highlighted that it is out of reach for many, leading to an increase in dumped kittens throughout the LGA, some lucky enough to survive and others facing horrific deaths.

In a related suggestion, Cr. Kotlash proposed selling pedigree animals housed at the Hawkesbury Animal Shelter at market rates if they are valued at thousands of dollars. 

While voting to reject the desexing plan,Cr McMahon has previously claimed to have had kittens dumped on her doorstep. In a bizarre post on the mayoral Facebook page in February 2023, she told her readers she believed it was a deliberate act against her. “I have no idea if this man knew it was the Mayor’s house or whether it was just an accident (I believe it was deliberate) but I truly am sickened by the fact that people engage in this abhorrent behaviour.” 

With the cost of desexing at $260, Councillor Wheeler highlighted that it is out of reach for many, leading to an increase in dumped kittens throughout the LGA.

 

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