Welcome to the New Zealand village of Omaui, a seaside community steeped in historical and natural landmarks.
Unless you happen to be a cat. Then you should probably just keep moving along.
In fact, Omaui may soon become the first town in the world to ban cats entirely.
Under its newly unveiled Pest Management Plan, Environment Southland — the agency tasked with protecting the local biosphere — is calling for all house cats to be neutered, microchipped and registered.
And when those cats die, they can’t be replaced. That could change the dynamic of this village, which as The New York Times spells out consists of “35 people and seven or eight much-loved cats.”
Officials say they have nothing against cats personally. It’s just that whole decimating-local-wildlife thing.
“There’s cats getting into the native bush; they’re preying on native birds, they’re taking insects, they’re taking reptiles — all sorts of things,” biosecurity operations manager Ali Meade told the Newshub news service.
Omaui wouldn’t be the only place looking to curb the damage cats inflict on local ecosystems.
In fact, free-roaming house cats in the U.S. kill as many as 4 billion wild animals every year — from birds to mammals to reptiles to amphibians.
And, as far as the toll on native species goes, Omaui need only look to neighboring Australia, where feral cats have pushed several kinds of reptiles to the brink of extinction.
That’s not to say cats are at fault for doing what comes naturally. Instead, experts argue, the burden of blame lies squarely on owners who let their cats engage in a little destructive “freedom.”
“Cats make wonderful pets — they’re spectacular pets,” Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre told the BBC. “But they shouldn’t be allowed to roam outside. It’s a really obvious solution.
“We would never let dogs do that. It’s about time we treat cats like dogs.”
Part of the problem, he added — and a big reason for opposition to the plan — is that it’s hard to set limits on animals that are just so plain adorable.
Not surprisingly, many Omaui residents are opposed to the proposal, vowing to fight it, err, tooth and claw.
Cat owner Nico Jarvis told the Otago Daily Times she likens it to the beginning of a “police state.”
”It’s not even regulating people’s ability to have a cat,” she said. “It’s saying you can’t have a cat.”
Paw Justice, a New Zealand animal rescue and cat-vocacy group also questioned the ban.
“Decisions affecting our pet loving community should be made based on research and fact, not by conjecture and without full transparency being given to those that the decision will adversely affect,” the group noted on its Facebook page.
But Environment Southland claims to have plenty of proof — including recordings from trail cams showing cats ravaging the flora and fauna.
“We’re not cat haters, but we’d like to see responsible pet ownership,” John Collins of the Omaui Landcare Trust told Newshub. “And this really isn’t the place for cats.”