Several Vanderhoof residents are concerned over the growing feral cat population so council debated an addition to the pet bylaws that could control them.
Mayor and council didn’t pass the bylaw yet but it will be debated at future council meetings and ratified once all options have been examined.
The original bylaw deals only with dogs and their owner’s responsibilities, this addition would have cats treated that same as dogs. They will require a license and may be impounded if found roaming.
Lila-Jean Morris is a concerned cat owner who spoke to mayor and council about the amount of abandoned cats and the lack of resources for them. She has three cats of her own as well as strays that she tries to look after.
“I’m very emotional about this,” said Morris when she started her presentation to council. “I very strongly feel that we need help in this area too.”
Morris talked about how she couldn’t keep one particularly beautiful cat in the veterinary clinic over night until she could take him to Prince George. She also spoke out on when she and others found out someone had dumped some kittens in the garbage where she lives.
“It’s terrible to think that people are like that,” she said. “How would we all feel if we had to live on the street? Can’t we have a soft spot where we can take these kitties to the shelters?”
The bylaw contains many rules on the proper treatment of any pets and the responsibilities of owners. One part prohibits anyone from owning more than three dogs and/or three cats unless they’re licensed as a kennel. Anyone found committing an offence against the bylaw could be fined between $250 and $2,000.
“This is something that we haven’t really faced before and I don’t think the cat bylaw is going to be the bylaw that straightens up all our problems,” said Mayor Gerry Thiessen. “What it will do is bring an awareness and an education to the public that they have a responsibility for, not only dogs, but all their animals.”
The animal control bylaw will require that all dog and cat owners obtain a license for a fee of $10 for a spayed or neutered animal to $30 for an unaltered animal. This fee will be waived for those dogs trained as guides or assistants to disabled persons.
The municipality will keep a registry of all the licensed pets with the current address and names of everyone written down in it. The bylaw would also require owners to keep their dogs and cats on a leash of some sort if they leave the owner’s property.
Any animal caught wandering at large will be impounded for a minimum of 72 hours unless claimed by the owner, then it will become municipal property and may be sold for adoption or euthanized.
Some of the problems raised with this is that cats are almost completely free to roam outside wherever they please. Councillor Steve Little brought up the fact that the municipality can license cats all they want but good luck to anyone on catching any unlicensed cat that doesn’t want to be caught.
An addition some members of the public would like added to the bylaw would be to post a notice of impoundment, which could include a picture of the animal, when it will be euthanized, and where it can be adopted.
Another criticism brought forward by the public is the notion that untrained cats will not accept a collar so other forms of identification, such as microchipping, might be required.
To deal with these issues, the municipal council created a task force that includes members of the public, animal control and District of Vanderhoof workers. Council will be looking to them to provide feedback and suggestions for dealing with the various issues.