City addresses cat problems in West Trail

Animal control captured 56 feral cats in a West Trail neighbourhood last year, and meow residents are demanding action.

Animal control captured 56 feral cats in a West Trail neighbourhood last year, and meow residents are demanding action.

The felines appear to be propagating on a certain property because they are being fed and provided water from the resident, who does not claim ownership or confine the animals to her home.

Nuisance and property damage complaints have been forthcoming since the city became aware of the problem last spring and involved the SPCA, Michelle McIsaac, Trail’s corporate officer, explained to members of council during the Monday governance meeting.

“It was recently raised again as a concern and the city has since been more actively involved in providing oversight to ensure that the trapping and removal of cats continues,” said McIsaac, noting impacted neighbours suggested changes to the city’s animal control bylaw.

“They were having to take a very active role in trapping the cats and felt there should be some amendments made to licencing for cats,” she explained. “And to include other control requirements to ensure cats are kept on property and also perhaps limit the numbers.”

While council agreed to reduce the number of cats allowed per household from six to three, it was Coun. Carol Dobie’s request that could help nip the problem at the source, which is people feeding but not owning the free roaming felines.

She asked the definition of owner be amended from “a person over 16 years who possesses or harbours” to include “a person…who possesses or harbours or provides sustenance.”

McIsaac acknowledged the unique circumstances of the West Trail case, saying the bylaw changes won’t necessarily deal with the concerns in the respective neighbourhood.

“These cats are not considered by the property in question to be owned by them or under their competent care,” she said, mentioning that the resident willingly surrendered some cats (not including the 56) to the SPCA.

Feral cats are subject to impoundment because they are not confined and considered “at large” on private properties without the homeowner’s permission.

After a period of time in isolation at the SPCA, and some socialization the cats can conceivably be adopted out under the organization’s mandate.

A feral cat is a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild, or the offspring of such an animal. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats have never been socialized.

The only local municipality that requires licencing for cats is Montrose. The cat regulation has been in place since 2000, and allows for two cats per household, unless the person moved to the village with more than two.

Fruitvale’s animal control bylaw does not specifically address cats, but does say animals are not allowed to stray, explained Lila Cresswell, the village’s chief administrative officer.

She said there’s no regulations on cats, but the village has been requested to consider regulations for exotic pets.

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