Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cats hardest hit as city workers pick up thousands of dead animals each year

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A local animal advocate says Winnipeg needs to do more to educate residents on how to care for pets after hundreds of dead cats have been reportedly found on city streets in the last three years.

Since 2010, City of Winnipeg data show 2,450 people have reported dead cats on public property to the city's 311 hotline. City officials say most of the cats are retrieved from Winnipeg's core area.

By the numbers

Total number of dead animals reported to the City of Winnipeg from 2010 to present.

Cats: 2,450

Deer: 1,661

Rabbits: 816

Racoons/skunks: 629

Geese: 523

Dogs: 383

Unknown: 277

Squirrels: 259

Foxes: 43


--Source: City of Winnipeg

So far this year, Winnipeg has received 652 reports of dead cats on public property.

The number comes as little surprise to Lynne Scott, who operates the Wolseley-based Craig Street Cats animal rescue shelter. Scott said some cats get hit by cars, some feral and stray cats don't survive the winter and many others are victims of abuse or are discarded by pet owners who don't know how to properly care for them.

Scott said there is a large portion of the population that does not like cats, and some people leave out poison or find other ways to harm the animals. She said other pet owners simply get rid of them when they are no longer wanted.

"People do horrible things to cats," Scott said. "Right now, I've got a kitten who was tossed from a moving car, another kitten whose owners stopped the car, set it out in the middle of Erin Street and drove away, a litter of six kittens found abandoned in an abandoned house. And that's just one week's worth."

Scott said animals aren't valued in poorer areas of Winnipeg, where families are often not strong units and some pet owners have never been taught how to properly care for an animal. She said the recently launched Paw Tipsters program will help people anonymously report cases of abuse, but the city and the school system should do more public pet education.

Last month, Paw Tipsters -- a non-profit charity that aims to combat animal abuse -- launched on the heels of several highly publicized cases, including one instance where a kitten was struck with a hammer. The group is raising money to pay for tips through the existing Crime Stoppers line. Anyone with information on any crime, including animal abuse, can call Crime Stoppers at (204) 786-TIPS (8477)

City of Winnipeg officials said city crews pick up dead animals and transport cats and dogs to the Winnipeg Humane Society for identification and closure. In most cases, they cannot identify the cat's owner or the cause of death.

"(Education) has to start with kids in areas that traditionally don't view companion animals as valuable," Scott said. "There's a lot of work that has to be done to train people that it's not appropriate to hurt animals."

City crews dispose of dead wildlife in the Brady Road Landfill.

Overall, 2,940 dead animals were reported to the City of Winnipeg in 2011 -- up from 2,812 the previous year. Deer, rabbits, racoons, and geese were the most common wildlife reported dead in public areas.

In an email statement, Winnipeg officials said domestic animals account for about 10 per cent of dead animal pickups, while the bulk is wild animals. Most of the domestic animals are cats and about two-thirds of the wildlife pickups are rabbits and squirrels.

Reesa Atnikov, supervisor of Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre, said animals have learned to adapt and live in the city, particularly as Winnipeg's boundaries have expanded. She said racoons tend to have more babies within a city than they do in the country due to available food.

Atnikov said Winnipeggers can help reduce the population of wildlife and cats by not feeding them.

"I think we could do a better job of educating people," she said. "People need to stop feeding these animals because then they become dependent on you as a food source."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2012 A3

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