Cat-licensing is a whisker closer to becoming law after a civic committee gave its approval Thursday.
After decades of talking about licensing cats, but never going far with it, the civic protection and community services committee approved the proposed $15 annual licence fee for spayed and neutered cats and a $50 annual fee for intact cats.
The only change councillors on the committee made was to amend where half the revenue from the licence sales would go in order to address the city's cat-overpopulation problem.
Instead of sending an anticipated $83,000 a year to the Winnipeg Humane Society and a couple of other local pet agencies to enhance their spay-and-neuter programs, the councillors decided to give the head of the city's animal services the power to decide which spay-and-neuter agencies will get the funding.
The proposed licence, part of the recommended responsible-pet-ownership bylaw, still has to go to executive policy committee next week and city council later this month before it can take effect.
If approved, the requirement for cat licences would begin Jan. 1, 2015.
Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) said they wouldn't support cat licensing unless more spaying and neutering was done.
The councillors said that after hearing a submission from James Webb of Citizens Helping to End the Cat Crisis, they believe the city needs a low-cost spay-and-neuter clinic open to all pet owners if it wants to reduce the cat-overpopulation problem.
Webb said a facility could be set up that could do more than 8,000 spay-and-neuters a year, cost as little as $125,000 to set up and would charge $15 to spay or neuter a cat.
After hearing this, Eadie said naming organizations that would get a share of licensing revenue was "too prescriptive" and would limit future possibilities.
"It should be channelled to the best place," he said. "Our head of animal services can determine where the best results would be.
"I am concerned that (the proposed bylaw) won't deal with feral cats," Smith said before the amendment on where licensing revenue would go.
"I don't think we will achieve much without more spay and neutering."
Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), the committee chairman, was the lone vote against the cat-licensing bylaw plan.
Fielding repeated what he told the Free Press last week -- he believes licensing cats is akin to taxing them.
"I'm not a supporter of cat-licensing per se, but I support more funds for spay and neutering," he said. "I don't think licensing impacts on the real issue."
Bill McDonald, head of the Winnipeg Humane Society, said he doesn't mind that councillors took his organization's name off the list of where licensing revenue would go to.
McDonald said the WHS already spays and neuters hundreds of felines a year with the support of the city, so he expects the majority of the money from licensing will continue to flow his way for now.
"It leaves the door open for Leland (Gordon, head of animal services) to give the money to a low-cost spay-and-neuter operation if one opens," he said.
Gordon said another benefit of cat licensing is it would help reunite more felines with their owners.