Time to settle the pet issue once and for all
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 06:00 am
When the issue of animal bylaw changes came to city council earlier this week it raised a couple of questions.
Why is this before council again? Council spends far too much time mired in minutia. Councillors have had the ability to put the whole pet bylaw saga behind them (and us) a long time ago, but here we are again, watching them grapple with what should be a simple issue to solve.
Why is there a bylaw requirement that dogs be licensed and controlled but nothing similar for cats? St. Albert has about 8,000 dogs but the city has no idea how many cats there are in the city. Both Red Deer and Morinville have bylaws that prohibit cats from running at large or defecating on or destroying public or private property. St. Albert has neither.
If a resident calls St. Albert bylaw enforcement officers to complain about cats, they’re basically told, tough, there’s nothing the city will do about it – call the Edmonton Humane Society … or spend your own money on sprayers, chemicals or traps.
Proposed changes to the animal control bylaw includes a number of elements aimed at curtailing dogs, but once again, city hall backed down when it came to the question of cats.
No licences required. No restrictions on their freedom to roam the streets and backyards, to drop their feces all over gardens and sandboxes and lawns.
The reason given this time was that it would be cost-prohibitive to bring in cat licensing. Administration estimated it could cost as much as $200,000 in the first year and about $130,000 annually.
A city survey, which drew about 750 responses, showed that 71 per cent of people would support cat licences and 67 per cent would support a bylaw prohibiting cats from roaming free.
But when asked if they would support either if it meant an increase in city spending, the percentage dropped to 53 per cent on both questions.
If there’s 8,000 dogs in St. Albert, chances are there’s at least that many cats. Even if there’s only half as many, at the $38 rate for licensing neutered or spayed pets, that would more than cover the annual costs.
That same survey found that 33 per cent of respondents had their “lifestyle disrupted” by a cat leaving feces on their property at least weekly while only 10 per cent had the same issue with dogs. Cats also bothered people by roaming freely (49 per cent), digging in their garden (34 per cent), playing in their yard (33 per cent) and damaging their property (21 per cent). And while council always brings up the issue of dogs running free, only 20 per cent of respondents said that bothered them.
It would appear obvious: either bring in a cat bylaw and let bylaw officers deal with the complaints as they do with dogs, fire pits and noise, or do away with dog restrictions. But make a decision. Get the issue out of the way once and for all and get on with the important business of running the city.