Fur is flying as Saanich Council looks at controversial cat control issue

Watch Should house cats be allowed to roam free? Saanich Council is debating the controversial cat control issue. Tess van Straaten reports.

Ann Nightingale loves to bird watch.

“The bird life in Saanich is amazing,” says Nightingale, who belongs to the Victoria Natural History Society. “There are hundreds of species that people can see.”

At Saanich’s Outerbridge Park — a residential park nestled between homes — she’s spotted 18 different species in just 10 minutes.

But Nightingale and many others are worried about the toll cats are taking on the environment.

It’s estimated felines kill more than a billion birds a year in North America.

“We wouldn’t dream of letting our dogs roam free or our hamsters,” Nightingale says. “Any other pet we say no, we’ve got to keep it under control and it’s time, the time has come for us to do the same with our cats.”

The cat control issue is now coming up at Saanich Council and many people think it’s a good idea.

“From the cat feces I find in my garden, I would think it would be a good thing seeing as we don’t have cats,” an area resident told CHEK News.

“I’d like to have them keep your cats indoors, keep them on a catio or on a leash and if not, there should be fines just like having your dog off-leash,” another man added.

Saanich is one of just four municipalities in the CRD that doesn’t have a cat control by-law.

All the rest ban animals from being at large, with varying levels of fines in seven of the municipalities from $60 to $150.

But a Saanich staff report is recommending against a by-law, saying the district doesn’t have the resources for enforcement.

With an average of 27 calls a month related to deer carcasses alone, the Saanich Police Department’s Pound Section says it’s already struggling to keep up.

“Calgary has licensed cats and they use those licensing fees to help return strays so licensing fees can be used to provide the revenue required to actually force a responsible pet by-law,” Nightingale points out.

A cat owner herself, Nightingale says a by-law would also protect cats, which are at risk from cars, cougars and other dangers when they roam free.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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