Guest Column: One Person’s Opinion

Animal Control Bylaw – Part 1

Most of you will remember our last go-round with an animal control bylaw (Dec. 2010/Jan. 2011), wherein we became the laughing-stock of the entire country (and beyond) for our insistence on ensuring that citizens did not harbour any of a very extensive and diverse list of critters; you know — the exotic kind.

Generally speaking and as noted by at least one local media outlet, this truly was “much ado about nothing”. However, we now appear to be heading once more down that slippery slope of trying to work out exactly how we control one particular segment of our pet population. You guessed it my friends — that species scientifically known as felis catus or more commonly as the house cat.

So — what’s the problem now?

Well it seems that our Town Administrators are once again a tad concerned over Bylaw 26/2010 (the Morinville Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw) but with apparent good reason.

At the final Council Committee of the Whole meeting prior to the official summer break, Mr. William Norton (Morinville’s Senior Community Peace Officer or CPO) delivered a presentation discussing a proposed update to the bylaw, which Council has yet to approve. Much to his credit, Mr. Norton presented an exceptional and very comprehensive list of options for consideration. These may be reviewed in detail in our local media, but are summarized in no particular order of preference as follows:

• Status quo – little impounding of wandering cats; owner education;

• Remove enforcement of cats from the Bylaw completely and focus on owner education;

• Stricter enforcement; mandatory licensing and proactive patrol; higher penalties and required owner education; and

• Softer enforcement; make traps available to citizens; allow for voluntary licensing.

CPO Sgt Norton’s presentation advised that most of the $16,000 spent by the Town in 2014 for vet and pound fees was cat-related. Apparently some 86 per cent of impounded cats are never returned to their owners because they (the cats that is…) are not identifiable.

What irks me is that, of all the options available to deal with the problem — and make no mistake about it, it IS a problem — the one Administration (Enforcement Services) would really like Council to adopt is to:

“…remove all enforcement of cats from the bylaw and just educate property owners on how to deter and [use] trap cats”

Not only does this approach smack of a total abrogation of responsibility, one of our Councillors apparently said that he would support this tactic. I personally think that a significant number of our citizens would be less than pleased should Council go this route.

Look folks, with all the different kinds of pets we have, why are cats the only ones we allow to roam freely? Dogs are on leashes, birds are in cages, rabbits are in hutches (or kept indoors) and fish are kept in aquariums. What makes cats so special when we think about animal control? No doubt about it — Council has a lot to consider over the next couple of months… one wonders just how much thought any of them will give to this exceptionally important topic.

The next article will take a closer look at the existing bylaw as it pertains to the mighty cat and discuss CPO Sgt Norton’s multi-layered approach to this growing problem.

James O’Brien,

Author’s Note: Over the next few weeks (the “Dog Days of Summer”) a series of articles critical of the Town of Morinville’s handling of several issues will be produced. This is the second article in the series and will open a discussion on our apparent and ongoing infatuation with pets.

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