The owners of cats that go outside in North Cowichan will have to have them spayed or neutered if the municipality’s new and updated animal responsibility bylaw is adopted.
North Cowichan’s corporate officer Karen Robertson said the proposed initiative is intended to help deal with the large number of feral cats in the region.
She said, if the new bylaw, which received third reading on April 17, is adopted at the council meeting on May 1, cat owners in North Cowichan that have outdoor cats will also be required to have some sort of identification on the animal, like tattoos, microchips or collars with contact information, when outside.
“This strategy is based on a model bylaw that the SPCA has in place,” Robertson said.
“The City of Duncan’s animal control bylaws are also modelled on the SPCA’s bylaw, and the intent is to have the same rules in place across the region.”
In response to cases of animal cruelty recently in the Cowichan Valley, North Cowichan’s council passed a motion earlier this year directing staff to provide a report on recommended changes to the municipality’s Animal Control Bylaw to establish animal care standards for the first time.
The proposed new bylaw deals with a wide range of animal concerns, including aggressive dogs, animal cruelty, basic animal requirements, animals in motorized vehicles and even feeding wildlife.
Robertson said under the proposed bylaw, cats would be allowed outside on the owner’s property and in public places, but if a complaint is received from private property owners that a cat is on their premises, the animal can be seized.
The rules are a little different for dogs, which must be in the control of a person when in public places, other than off-leash parks.
Robertson said an impounded cat that is spayed or neutered will cost the owners $25 to have it returned, and $100 for those that are not spayed or neutered.
“But if proof of sterilization is received within 30 days of the cat being released, the owners will get back $75,” Robertson said.
Erika Paul, the SPCA’s senior animal protection and outreach officer, said she is pleased with the plan to make spaying and neutering mandatory for outdoor cats in North Cowichan’s proposed animal control bylaw.
She said Cowichan Cat Rescue, which helps feral cats in the region, is also in favour of spaying and neutering outdoor cats.
Paul said cats are a very prolific species and it’s important that outside cats are spayed and neutered to control their feral populations and for their health.
“Cats will fight for mating rights and, if you spay and neuter them, it curbs these hormonal issues,” she said. “Spaying and neutering also prevents property damage as cats are territorial and tend to spray around their property, and the properties of females in heat, causing damage if they are not sterilized.”
Paul said having stray cats on private property seized is not new, and property owners have always had the right to call animal control authorities to seize them if they are on their property.
She said she isn’t expecting much negative feedback from the cat owners in North Cowichan if the bylaw is adopted.
“Most cat owners spay and neuter their cats anyway to keep them from wandering and spraying around their properties,” she said.
“As I said, it helps with hormonal issues and makes for a more calm feline community.”