Forgive the pun, but the city has finally taken the bull by the horns with its new Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, which provides stronger protection for dogs and cats, while also banning exotic animals, including those in travelling circuses.
The bylaw, which must be approved by council, is progressive and consistent with policies in other municipalities across Canada.
The requirement for cat licensing will provide funds to support the work of the animal services agency and spay and neuter programs but, more ideally, it will also promote more responsible pet ownership.
There are too many stray cats in Winnipeg, which is not just a problem for homeowners and others, but evidence of animal abuse. Some 2,500 cats were euthanized by the Winnipeg Humane Society alone in 2010, an appalling number. Winnipeg, in fact, is one of the last major cities in Canada to require licensing. It won't eliminate the problem of stray cats, but anything that reduces the number feral felines is good news for songbirds, the declining numbers of which have been linked to growing numbers of cats.
The prohibition on the sale of dogs or cats by pet stores will also help reduce the problem of overpopulation and of animals ending up in the hands of irresponsible owners.
Reputable breeders want to ensure their animals end up in good homes, which is never assured by pet stores. Petland had stopped selling cats and dogs in 2011 because it recognized it was contributing to the problem of unwanted pets in the city. The chain also partners with animal agencies in the adoption of rescue animals.
Tougher rules will also ban the use of tigers, elephants and monkeys in travelling circuses and shows. There has been too much evidence of animal abuse to allow the show to go on. Wild animals, moreover, do not naturally or willingly jump through rings of fire, and the spectacle has widely come to be seen as cruel and beneath the ordinary standards of decency.
There are other measures in the proposed bylaw that will strengthen the safety of animals and people in an urban environment, including the continuing ban on pit pulls and a requirement that anyone selling a pup or kitten obtain a licence.
Some people will object to these changes and others will ignore them, but overall, they are reasonable measures to control and reduce the number of unwanted pets in Winnipeg while recognizing that while animals do not have rights, they are sentient beings that deserve more regard and compassion.