Outdoor access is prohibited for the time being: Many domestic cats in Walldorf (Rhein-Neckar district) are no longer allowed to leave the house until the end of August. In order to protect the crested lark, which is threatened with extinction, the district office has issued a general decree that is probably unique in Germany. According to this, domestic cats in the southern part of the city are no longer allowed outside the door until the end of August 2022 and in the next three years from April to August.

The district office rejected criticism of the procedure on Wednesday. According to the district, the survival of the crested lark depends on “the survival of every single young bird”. Other media had previously reported on the arrangement.

Criticism of this came from the state animal protection officer, Julia Stubenbord: “It is very critical to lock up cats for longer. That means a lot of stress and suffering if you completely cut off the freedom.” The animal protection association Wiesloch/Walldorf announced that it wanted to defend itself legally against the general decree, as the “Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung” reported. “Please keep calm,” said the club’s chairman, Volker Stutz, to the cat owners, according to the newspaper. “I assure you that we are doing our best to stop this disproportionate measure.”

Cat owners who do not keep their pet under house arrest face a fine of 500 euros. And up to 50,000 euros can be due if the cat injures or kills one of the rare birds. If you still want to allow your cat to go outside, you can apply for a special permit. He either has to use GPS data to prove that the animal is not in the area in question, or he does it on a harness – i.e. walking the cat. However, the leash must not be longer than two meters. Critics consider these solutions to be difficult to implement. And the proposed temporary accommodation in an animal pension could be quite expensive, Stubenbord pointed out.

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The general decree is absolutely unrealistic, explained the state animal protection association. The German Animal Welfare Association called the regulation disproportionate. The decline of species such as the crested lark and many other bird species is primarily due to the loss of habitat and food – among other things due to the intensification of agriculture, the development of fallow land and the death of insects. “The negative impact of cats on the population of songbirds is controversial anyway and, to our knowledge, has not yet been proven for the crested lark in Walldorf.”

The nature conservation association defended the decision of the district office. Basically, something has to change in agriculture so that agricultural birds such as the crested lark, but also the lapwing and the skylark, have a future. “Because field and meadow breeders are among the most endangered bird species in the country.”

From the point of view of the Stuttgart Ministry of Agriculture, a practical legal implementation of a limitation on the freedom of domestic cats will hardly be practicable. It referred to a similar question and decision by the Bundestag’s Petitions Committee in February. Accordingly, it is unreasonable for animal welfare reasons to ban domestic cats from any free range. It is also incompatible with the nature of cats to keep them on a leash when running free. In addition, it would be a disproportionate interference with the rights of pet owners if they had to completely fence in their gardens to prevent cats from escaping, or if the purchase of domestic cats were forbidden altogether.

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