Margie Colclough is fed up with cats terrorizing her neighbourhood and is asking the City of Penticton to do something about it.
“I am personally distraught when I have to clean up the tattered bodies of birds over the winter months. When I walk with trepidation throughout my yard for fear of what I will find, this strongly impacts my enjoyment, my property and quality of life,” said Colclough, who had a dozen or so people sitting in council chambers supporting her.
“A bylaw that helps owners be responsible for their pets would go a long way towards protecting animals and showing Penticton residents that their individual rights are valued.”
Colclough conducted research on what other cities have done to combat unsupervised roaming cats to stop them from causing a public nuisance and presented that to city council at their regular meeting on Tuesday. In her research she found four out of the 11 cities she researched have licence fees for cats, nine require cats to have identification, eight required all cats to be spayed or neutered and all 11 do not allow cats to run at large.
Colclough also shared a statement from Penticton resident Eva Durance, who is involved with the South Okanagan Naturalist Society, as she could not be at the meeting.
“Free-roaming, domestic and feral cats are the second most common reason for the very serious decline in populations of native birds, not to mention the many other creatures they kill or maim. Such cats tend to have short lives from accidents and disease, both of which cause them suffering and often great expense to the owners. Property owners should not have to put up with feral cats digging in their gardens or using their gardens as litter boxes any more than we tolerate dogs doing this,” said Colclough reading Durance’s statement.
Penticton SPCA branch manager Tracy Westmoreland said last year the Penticton shelter took in over 800 cats and kittens. Out of those 291 were stray kittens, which is the fourth greatest intake of any SPCA branch in the province.
“That is a huge problem,” said Westmoreland. “We are dealing with a public nuisance issue, a public health issue because cats spread disease to other cats and to people, and they also are major predators that decimate wildlife.”
Westmoreland said it’s “terrifying,” to think of the actual population number of free-roaming cats in the city and it could be in thousands. The primary issue the Penticton SPCA has, said Westmoreland, is when a stray cat is reunited with its owner there are no consequences.
“We can’t tell them it has to be spayed or neutered, it has to have ID, that roaming isn’t acceptable. Unless you can fine people and put some rules in place they don’t listen, they go and do it again. When you start charging people instantly it makes a difference. If we have that power we would turn the tables and we would see improvement, absolutely,” said Westmoreland.
The branch manager suggested the city start off small, with the introduction of a licence program. Westmoreland also suggested the licence program could cover the administration fees or, if set higher, could generate enough revenue to support a spay and neuter program. As the program develops she added there could be fines for cats at large, not wearing ID or selling or giving away cats that are intact.
Coun. Mike Pearce said he doesn’t want city staff to get tangled in the bylaw, fielding numerous calls a day, instead he suggested the authority could be given to the SPCA.
“They can undertake the selling of the tags and keep the funds to run the spay program so we aren’t involved in more administration, more demands for buildings, more demands for bylaw enforcement. Then the responsibility of everyone phoning us after we have done this, there would be 500 phone calls a day coming to the city from people with complaints. But if the SPCA would come forward with some sort of program perhaps my vote would be able to be swayed to do that,” said Pearce.
He said he would like to see what city staff could come up with in terms of a bylaw and having the SPCA involved and would like to see this issue return at a future council meeting.