Responsible Pet Ownership
Pets, in particular, dogs and cats, form a large part of our lives and it is essential we recognise that even the most well behaved and loved pets have the potential to cause detrimental harm to native wildlife in different situations.
If you own a pet you have a responsibility for both the safety of your pet and to ensure your pet does not negatively impact on other people or animals, including native wildlife. There are a number of simple actions that you can do to be a responsible pet owner.
Tips to being responsible pet ownerIf you have a pet and you also plan on sharing your backyard with wildlife, there are some important actions you can take to protect wildlife from domestic pets:
- Keep your dog/s and or cat/s inside at night. Many wildlife species are active at night and many of our bird species feed during dawn and dusk. By keeping your pet inside or secured within an enclosure between dawn and dusk, your new backyard neighbours will be safe to use their new habitat and forage freely
- Buy or build a purpose designed outdoor cat run. These enclosures can be constructed as either free standing or attached to your house with a pet door and will allow your cat to play outdoors without being able to threaten native wildlife. These outdoor enclosures can be as large as you like and designed to include climbing frames, scratch-posts, living plants and covered sleeping / resting areas. The use of outdoor cat enclosure will not only protect native wildlife but also your cat from being hit by cars or being attacked by other cats or roaming dogs
- Fit a collar to your cat with at least 2 bells and a mirror ball or reflective finish. Cats are quite clever and can learn to hold bells under their chin and stop them making a noise. By fitting a mirror ball or other material that will reflect “sunlight” birds and other potential prey will have a chance to see (and be startled by) bright flashes of sunlight reflecting from the cat and have a chance at escaping or finding protection
- Ensure your dog is contained within a secure yard and cannot escape through any holes, loose panels, squeeze under or jump over your fence. Roaming dogs can not only frighten people but also chase and kill native wildlife and stock on rural properties. Most of us don’t believe that our beloved
- Best friend at home could ever hurt a fly, but when domestic dogs come together in bushland parks and encounter a scared fleeing animal they can become very excited and sometimes overcome with their natural instinct to hunt (just like cats). A secure backyard will not only protect your dog but also native wildlife in adjoining bush and parklands
- Always walk your dog on a lead, even in natural areas. This will prevent your dog from “taking off” after something it has seen or heard in the bushes
- When in “off Leash” areas or at the beach, never let your dog chase birds or other animals. Many migratory shore birds in particular are vulnerable to stress and may be resting from either a long flight or preparing for one
- If you do not plan to breed from your cat or dog, it is highly recommended to have your pet desexed. This will reduce the risk of unwanted kittens and puppies (Sunshine Coast Council also provides a reduction in registration fees for desexed animals)
- Never dump unwanted animals in bushland. This is illegal and cruel. The animal will either die a slow and lonely death or become feral pest. Most cats survive solely by preying on native wildlife in bushland areas. Others will become pests hanging around urban areas looking for food hand outs, breeding and fighting with pet cats and preying on native wildlife in our backyards
Why is it important to be a responsible pet ownerIt is estimated that 63% of the 7.5 million households in Australia have one or more pets. Figures from the RSPCA indicate that in 2005, there were 2.8 million Australian households with dogs (38% of the total), and 1.9 million households with cats (25%).
With pets forming such a large part of our lives it is essential we recognise that even the most well behaved and loved pets have the potential to cause detrimental harm to native wildlife in different situations.
If you are planning to create a wildlife friendly backyard and attract a variety native wildlife species into a yard, you will need to ensure that you are not creating a hunting ground for your pet.
Dogs love to chase things. It is a game for them. Unfortunately, they will also chase wildlife such as lizards, dragons, ground & water birds, possums, frogs, koalas, kangaroos and small mammals. These animals will usually die of shock and stress from being chased and “played” with, even if your dog doesn’t actually bite or eat the animal. In other instances, protective and even jealous dogs will attack and maul unknowing wildlife that enter their territory (backyard).
Cats also love to chase and “play” with small wildlife species. However they are also natural hunters and they have a natural instinct is to hunt and kill, whether they are hungry or not. When cats are allowed to roam freely they are capable of killing very large numbers of birds, lizards, frogs, insects and small mammals. It is estimated that the pet moggy on average can take 16 mammals, 8 birds and 8 reptiles annually. This adds up to potentially 96 million vertebrates each year.
For further InformationLinks and Other Resources
challenges, tools and games.
Useful Tips and Facts
- Create urban wildlife corridors and stepping stones to larger local bushland or parkland areas.
- In nature there is no such thing as waste everything is linked and contributes to the cycle. As a plant reaches the end of its life cycle it is not discarded by nature, instead it provides habitat for animals and food for micro-organisms as it lies on the ground, the waste from the micro-organisms, bacteria and fungi feeding on it replace nutrients and organic material to the soil for new plants to grow.
- Plant local native species
- The best way to attract native wildlife to your backyard is to provide a variety of healthy natural foods in the form of seeds, leaves, flowers, nectar, pollen, fruits and nuts throughout the year.
- The use of pesticides and herbicides can damage your soils and kill non target species. The poisoning of insects with chemicals can also cause larger species relying on those insects as a food source to become sick or even die from eating poisoned insects.
- To create habitat for smaller native birds you can grow shrubs close together to create dense corners or pockets in your garden which will provide protection and refuge from larger aggressive birds such as noisy miners
- Wattles (Acacias). While most wattles only live between 6 - 10 years, they are an important pioneer species which colonise disturbed areas, where other plants find it hard to grow. They improve soil conditions enough to allow other species to germinate and thrive by fixing nitrogen into the soil through their roots and adding high levels of organic leaf litter.