Cat owners in a German town will be allowed to let their pets outside for the first time in three months when authorities lift a special lockdown.
Residents of Walldorf in the southwest were ordered in May to keep their cats indoors to protect an endangered bird.
Cats were only allowed to venture outside if kept on a leash no longer than two meters.
But animals will again be allowed to roam freely from Monday.
If a cat escaped while the lockdown was in effect, owners had to call a special hotline and then find and detain the offending feline.
Any breach will result in a fine. An owner whose animal injured or killed one of the protected birds had to pay up to €50,000 (NZ$79,500).
Authorities had tried to protect the local population of the crested lark, saying the species was endangered in the state of Baden-Württemberg and the whole of Germany.
They said there were only three breeding pairs left in Walldorf itself.
Activists have criticized the restrictions, saying they will harm the welfare of the cats, while stressing that they support efforts to protect the larks.
Several million birds die naturally every year, but there is no evidence that cat attacks in gardens have led to population declines, according to Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
It’s unclear whether the Walldorf lockdown has benefited the larks, but authorities have announced they will lift the restriction two weeks earlier than planned.
Birds that hatch in the spring are now considered sufficiently developed and less vulnerable to attack.
The mayor of Walldorf said it was good news, but he and the local cat community may see their celebrations cut short: the lockdown is expected to return next spring, and in subsequent years during the birds’ breeding season.