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Proposed cat by-law: You feed it, you own it

By Nick Seebruch

Published on May 14, 2018

Mellissa Alepins of Tiny but Mighty Kitten Rescue with a two-week-old kitten that was rescued from the City dump. She brought the kitten to the City Council meeting on Monday, May 14, 2018 where a new proposed cat by-law was discussed (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

CORNWALL, Ontario - Cornwall City Council reviewed a proposed cat by-law at their meeting on Monday, May 14, 2018.

City administration presented the by-law to City Council and asked councillors to review it and give feedback.

The by-law suggested mandatory spay/neutering of all cats, and mandatory registration.

The by-law would also outline strict rules around cat ownership. The law states that if someone is found to be feeding a stray cat, that they will then be considered to be the owners of the cat, and responsible for registering and spaying/ neutering the cat.

"People who feed stray cats are now responsible for stray cats are now responsible for those cats, I don't agree with that," said Councillor Justin Towndale. "My mom feeds birds, does that mean she should be responsible for the birds?"

Chris Rogers, head of the City of Cornwall's By-law Department said that this measure had already been enacted in another Ontario municipality, either Peterborough or Whitby, he said he could not recall which.

In addition to strict laws around ownership, the proposed by-law would also restrict cats being allowed outdoors. If the by-law were enacted, all cats would have to remain indoors unless on a leash or in a secure enclosure.

"Doing so would offer some immediate effect to what is a longer term spay/neuter program, principal to mitigating uncontrolled propagation," the proposed by-law reads. "Anticipated benefits might include less neighbourhood nuisance behaviours like raucous interaction, spraying, and preying on wild life and reduce public health hazard potential inherent with garden urination/defecation, flea infestation and similar."

Rogers said that he inserted this suggestion into the report to provide an immediate solution to the problem.

"This is meant to give immediate affect to the uncontrolled propagation," said Rogers. He said he spoke with the SD&G OSPCA who told him that there is nothing wrong with this suggestion. "In fact, they encourage it," he continued.

He explained that feral cats were 30 percent of the problem, the rest were roaming cats who have owners, but are not spayed or neutered.

Cornwall has a high roaming cat population. The number of cats surrendered to the SD&G OSPCA is 30 percent of the province total.

In July 2018 the SD&G OSPCA held a one-day cat amnesty during which 73 cats were surrendered in a single day.

Each cat costs the OSPCA $514 to house. That cost does not include spay or neutering, vaccinations, and medical care. Approximately one-third of all cats surrendered to the SD&G OSPCA require medical attention.

A cat can start reproducing at as young as four months old. One female kitten can birth around 40 kittens in a year.

Between 2008 and 2009 there was a temporary by-law in Cornwall under which stray cats were caught and spayed or neutered. During that time, 300 cats were captured. The program was funded by the SD&G OSPCA through fundraising, but it was not sustainable.

Cornwall City Council requested that administration formulate a new by-law to deal with the cat issue.

Council received the report. Any future cat by-law will presumably be based on this report, but public consultations would take place before it would go back to council for final approval.

Independent cat rescuers have tried to tackle the problem themselves, and some of them were at the council meeting on Monday night.

Mary-Jane Proulx of Roy & Cher's Rescue was skeptical about the proposed release.

"It will never work," she said. "They need to go back to trap and return."

Under trap and return, cats are trapped, spayed/ neutered and then released back into the wild.

"We need low-cost spay and neuter clinics," said Mellissa Alepins of Tiny but Mighty Kitten Rescue, who was at the council meeting with a two-week-old kitten that she had saved from the city dump.