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Animal welfare organizations reject proposed cat licensing bylaw

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Three Winnipeg animal shelters are urging a city committee to scrap a proposed bylaw that calls on pet owners to license their cat.

A city report, released last week, recommends Winnipeg enact a new bylaw requiring cat owners to purchase an annual licence for their furry friend at a cost of $15 if the animal is spayed or neutered or $50 if it is not. The net profit from the fees -- an estimated $21,000 if 5,000 cats are licensed in 2014 -- will go to either the Winnipeg Humane Society, or partner organizations, to help expand their spay-and-neuter programs.

Winnipeggers who do not license their cat would be fined $250 when the proposed regulations would take effect next January.

Winnipeg Humane Society executive director Bill McDonald said the new bylaw eliminates a requirement for cat owners to spay or neuter their pet. He said the key to reducing the city's pet overpopulation problem is spaying and neutering, and the proposed amount of funding from the licenses is not enough.

McDonald called on Winnipeg to create a task force on cats, and create a low-cost spaying or neutering clinic by 2016. Last year, the Winnipeg Humane Society euthanized 2,235 cats.

McDonald told council's protection and community services committee Winnipeg is not doing enough for animal welfare.

"We as a modern city in North America should be embarrassed by this number," he said.

McDonald, and director of two of Winnipeg's no-kill shelters, D'Arcy's A.R.C. and Winnipeg Pet Rescue, urged the committee to hold off on the new bylaw changes and conduct further consultations.

Winnipeg Pet Rescue executive director Carla Martinelli said the city's animal services department deals with dogs, not cats, and she was not asked for her input on the proposed bylaw changes.

She said the cat licensing program will target responsible pet owners, not the individuals who let their pets roam the streets.

The cat licensing proposal is part of a massive overhaul of Winnipeg's pet bylaws that includes a proposed ban on the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores and requires anyone who sells puppies or kittens to register for a $300 annual licence.

The report also recommends "urban chicken-keeping" in Winnipeg will be allowed only in areas zoned for agriculture.

The city started to review the bylaws in 2011 following growing concern Winnipeg's stray-pet population had literally run wild and animal shelters could barely keep up with demand. Though there are no estimates on how many stray or feral cats live in the city, the Winnipeg Humane Society takes in about 6,000 lost, stray or unwanted cats a year, 2,500 of which are euthanized.

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Updated on Monday, January 14, 2013 at 3:33 PM CST: fixes typo

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