Cat owners in hamlets in Big Lakes County could soon be limited to the number of felines on their property.

At its regular meeting June 14, council gave second reading to amend its animal-control bylaw to add regulations at the highest level of service.

Amendments have been proposed as council deals with a rising concern of the growing number of stray and feral cats in hamlets.

“Cats have been a big problem and we’ve got to do something about it,” Reeve Robert Nygaard says.

“There’s going to be a time when cats will attack a small child.”

If the proposed bylaw is adopted, no person shall keep or have more than three cats on any property in a hamlet.

Administration recommended a maximum of six cats on one property.

However, North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Jim Zabolotniuk suggested three, which was supported by council.

All cats in hamlets will need to be licensed.

While cats have been a concern in Kinuso for more than a year, the problem has spread to other hamlets.

“It’s a huge issue in our hamlets,” Kinuso Councillor Roberta Hunt says.

Joussard Councillor Richard Mifflin agrees.

“It’s an issue in the hamlets,” Mifflin says.

He notes that 20 cats were recently reported on one residential property in Joussard.

South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart admits steps need to be taken to control cats in hamlets.

“I know we need something done.”

However, she cautions council about the costs to control one kind of cats.

“I really want council to think of the cost to the county,” Stewart says.

“How are we going to deal with feral cats?”

Council was requested to determine the option for level of service presented by Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.

“We want to know the level of service council wants and then we can further draft the bylaw and come back for final reading at the next meeting (June 28),” Hawken says.

The draft highest level of service in the bylaw amendment proposes that:
-Owners must not allow cats to run at large; bite or attack a person; chase, challenge or attack any domestic animal, cause any other damage or nuisance; no person shall in any way allow a cat to become or remain a cast in distress.

Responding to complaints:
-Animal control staff will speak with residents, complainants, witnesses and offers.
-Enforcement involves issuing written and/or verbal warning, issuing municipal tags or issuing provincial tickets through the Town of High Prairie peace officers.
-Cats may be picked up by animal control staff at their discretion.

Draft regulations for the animal care facility propose that:
-Impounded cats placed at the BLC animal care facility shall be kept for 72 hours subject to the owner’s right to redeem the animal upon payment of applicable fines and/or fees.
-Unclaimed cats may be transferred to a rescue organization, placed up for adoption by BLC or euthanized due to the cat’s behaviour, health, or limited capacity of the animal care facility.

To increase regulations, Hawken estimates it will cost about $7,500 in the first year to add services and equipment, and $2,250 annually after that.

The biggest cost the first year would be $3,000-$5,000 to add housing for cats at the county’s animal control facility in High Prairie, Hawken says.

He notes licensing cats would have benefits.

Cat licenses would:
-Provide proof of ownership when issuing warnings or fines for bylaw infractions.
-Increase probability of returning captured cats to their owners.

In case of a natural disaster, the county will have records on the number of animals in hamlets and will allocate appropriate resources for emergency management.

by Richard Froese

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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