Town looking to curb roaming cats

Roaming cats continue to be a problem in Morinville, despite a bylaw prohibiting animals at large.

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Although the town has a bylaw against roaming pets, many residents are still not getting the message, particularly those who let their cats run free. But Donna Tona, Morinville’s interim manager of enforcement services said there is a crack down coming on uncurbed cats.

“It has nothing to do with picking on cats,” Tona said, adding she is a cat owner herself. “Our concern is cat safety because there’s a misconception out there that cats have to roam. If you have a farm, cats roam on a farm. If you are in town, cats don’t need to roam.”

In fact, Tona said allowing cats to roam freely throughout the neighbourhood puts the pets at risk, something she has seen first hand in her position with the town. Tona said it is not uncommon to see cats brought to the vet with maggots in their limbs from unhealed fight wounds.

“They’ve got ripped and torn ears; they’ve got cheeks hanging off,” she said. “That’s not fun. And it’s not fun for the vets and it’s not fun when we have to go get them and take them to the vet and then explain to an owner or a child that your cat has been hurt or your cat has been killed.”

But Tona pointed out the dangers to roaming cats are not always from other animals on the streets.

“People take matters into their own hands,” she said, pointing out she cautions residents against doing so. “They put out poison; they put out inhumane traps; they will snare them; they will beat them; they will shoot them. Or they’ll pick them up and take them out of town 50 miles and dump a domestic cat off. That’s not fair to the animal. We’re going to start clamping down because it is not fair to the animals.”

As it currently sits, Morinville’s fine for roaming cats is $60 per infraction. That figure is halved if the animal is micro chipped or tattooed. Tona is planning to make a proposal to Morinville Town Council this fall that the fine be increased from $60 to $150, as she feels the current fine is not enough of a deterrent. Additionally, Tona said she would like to see something in place to ensure that animal owners pay the vet bill if their roaming animal is injured.

“We deal with a vet bill every month that is big when it comes to cats,” she said, adding that many owners, when confronted with the bill, simply surrender the animal rather than pay it. That leaves the Town holding the bill. We’re going to be stopping that practice. You have an animal; you have to look after it. Whether you surrender it or not, the vet bill will be yours.”

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Although statistics on roaming and feral cats have not been kept in the past, the Town is beginning to track data now. Tona said her department receives two to three calls a week complaining about animals at large.

Residents concerned about roaming cats in their neighbourhood are able to get a cat trap from the Town, but Tona cautioned that complainants take on some heavy responsibilities the moment they are handed one.

“When home owners ask for a cat trap they have to sign a form indicating the humane trapping of cats,” she said. “They are responsible for that trap. They call us and we’ll pick up that trap and take it to the vet. But they cannot leave a trap without water or food. They have to check that trap every 20 minutes to half an hour. They have to be responsible. If they are not, they can be charged under the cruelty to animals law.”

Tona advises residents who wish to deal with the matter in other ways to document the times and dates when cats are roaming on their property and to take photos, particularly if they know who the cat belongs to. This will allow enforcement services to deal directly with the animal’s owners.

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