Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kitty bylaw is back

City tables rejigged rules for pets

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One activist says she believes requiring licences for cats will prompt owners to release them, causing them to join the ranks of feral cats.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

One activist says she believes requiring licences for cats will prompt owners to release them, causing them to join the ranks of feral cats. Photo Store

You may soon need a licence to own a cat but you won't be able to raise a chicken in your backyard or a python in an aquarium.

A circus show would have to go on without a tiger or an elephant.

And you still won't be able to house a whale or a walrus -- even if you have the room.

Those are all part of the changes, or continued restrictions, contained in the city's proposed new responsible-pet-ownership bylaw. The bylaw, which will come up for debate at this Thursday's civic protection and community services committee, would replace both the current pound and exotic-animal bylaws.

If approved, the cat-licensing program would be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2015. It would require cat owners to buy $15 licences for spayed or neutered felines, or a $50 licence for an intact cat, whether or not the cat is ever let outdoors.

Don't buy the licence, and you will have to pay a $250 fine.

The city, through a contract with the Winnipeg Humane Society, already gives the animal shelter $75,000 a year for its cat spay-and-neuter program. The expected revenue from cat licences would allow the city to top that up to more than $158,000 per year.

Earlier this year, when the bylaw was first considered, major animal groups such as the Winnipeg Humane Society expressed disapproval, saying it wouldn't solve the city's cat-overpopulation problem. The Winnipeg Humane Society, Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter and D'Arcy's ARC now have all given their blessing to it.

"It won't solve the problem (of cat overpopulation), but it will make a dent," said Carla Martinelli-Irvine, WPRS executive director.

"I wasn't in favour before, because I thought it was a cash grab, but now they are putting more money toward spay and neutering.

"I'm glad the city has addressed the problem of overpopulation."

"Cat overpopulation in Winnipeg is a significant issue and these measures are important steps toward addressing this problem," said Bill McDonald, the Winnipeg Humane Society's chief executive officer, in a statement Friday.

But while Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), the committee chairman, is in favour of most of the proposed bylaw, he's not in favour of licensing cats.

"I generally think it's like a tax on cats," Fielding said.

"It also establishes a $167,000 cat bureaucracy for the administration of it."

Fielding said instead of cat licensing, he'd rather see the city just ante up more to the WHS for cat spaying and neutering.

Lynne Scott, executive director of Craig Street Cats, which has a management program for feral cats, said she believes the city's cat-licensing proposal will actually increase the number of feral cats in the community.

Scott said the licence costs will force some people to get rid of their cats by letting them loose where they will turn feral.

"The only method to reduce the number of cats on the street is to trap, neuter and return them to the exact same area," she said.

"Cats are territorial and will stop others from coming into their territory. On our pilot project on Craig Street, we had 40 cats on one block with 35 kittens. Six years later, we have 12 cats and no kittens in three years. It works and it works dramatically." kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 B1

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