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Cat owners in a southwestern German town will be allowed to let their pets out for the first time on Monday, following a three-month lockdown that authorities had imposed to protect an endangered bird species, the BBC reported.
In May, local authorities ordered residents in Walldorf to keep their feline house pets indoors and only take them out if they were on a leash no more than six feet in length.
If a cat escaped, owners had to call a special hotline so that the authorities could detain the offending feline. But if the animal injured or killed one of the protected birds, the owner was liable for a fine of nearly $51,000.
The restrictions are part of an attempt to protect the local population of the crested lark, a bird species that is endangered in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, and across Germany as a whole.
Officials warned there were just three breeding pairs left in Walldorf itself.
Animal rights advocates had criticized the lockdown on cats, but acknowledged the efforts to protect the birds.
It’s not clear whether the lockdown benefited the larks but authorities said that birds that hatched in the spring are now sufficiently mature and therefore less vulnerable to attack.
Even so, Walldorf’s mayor said the lockdown would be reimposed again next spring and in subsequent years during the birds’ breeding season.
Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said millions of birds die naturally each year but there is no clear scientific evidence that cats in gardens are causing a population decline.