Mimi is putting a paw down and saying something needs to change as cat containment laws prevent her from being walked around her neighbourhood.
Mimi’s owner, Emerson Riley, has been walking her feline using a cat harness for over four years and she is petitioning ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to change to the Domestic Animals Act 2000 so she can walk Mimi in her suburb.
Ms Riley started using a cat harness after adopting Mimi from the RSPCA in 2016, when she realised her cat wanted to explore the outside world.
“They told me she was an indoor cat, but she always kept trying to get outside. So, I tried her on a harness and she just took to it straight away,” she said.
After moving into a new apartment in a cat containment area, Ms Riley was informed by City Services that walking Mimi around her suburb using a harness could incur a $1,600 fine.
“About a year ago I wanted to buy my own apartment. I found one in Wright and I went out and had a look … I noticed it was in a cat containment area. So, I called Domestic Animal Services to check to see could I walk her on a lead. They said, ‘Absolutely you can walk her on a lead or on a harness, she is contained, that’s fine’,” Ms Riley said.
“I went ahead and purchased the apartment, moved in November and just recently they told me that she’s not allowed to be out in a harness at all, she needs to be contained in the home. I would never have bought there if I had have known, because she loves being outside so much.
“She’s not quite understanding why we’re not walking so much anymore.”
Designed to protect native wildlife and pet cats, the Domestic Animals Act 2000 states cats are always to be contained on their owner’s premises. For the cat, it means they need to be kept in a completely or partly enclosed space that they cannot escape from, which includes “a building or part of a building, a vehicle or a cat cage”. It is recommended that the cat is kept totally in indoors but building an outdoor enclosure or “cat proofing” the backyard are also acceptable options.
However, Ms Riley has no outdoor area for Mimi to explore.
“I have a courtyard and I’ve got to get body corporate approval to enclose that with mesh. I don’t know if they’re going to approve that or not, so I have to wait for that,” she said.
While seeing a cat on a leash is still an unusual sight, according to RSPCA Queensland, walking a cat using a harness is beneficial for both the cat and the owner. In an article published December 2020, RSPCA Queensland said that taking the cat outdoors provides them exercise as well as the opportunity to experience the sights, smells and sounds of the outdoors, while still protecting the native wildlife.
“I’m under no illusions that cats are predators, but she’s contained when she’s on a harness,” Ms Riley said.
Ms Riley is currently taking Mimi into the office, located in a non-cat containment zone, to walk her. However, because Mimi’s walks have been cut down from 15 to 30 minutes daily to 20 to 40 minutes three times a week, she is still missing out.
“I can see that she’s depressed, and she’s just not enriched; she’s not having a full life anymore,” Ms Riley said.
“I think the problem with the law is I don’t think they ever considered cats are now increasingly walking on leads.”
Mimi’s petition currently has over 400 signatures and Ms Riley plans to keep lobbying to raise awareness for the benefits of cat harnesses.
“My ultimate hope is to have an amendment to the law or some sort of concession that would allow her to walk in her neighbourhood on a lead,” Ms Riley said.
“Cats do love to be outside and we can protect them and the wildlife by putting them on a harness.”
For more information, you can view Mimi’s petition here: Let Mimi Walk
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