Feral felines targeted in B.C. SPCA’s five-year plan

NANAIMO – Expansion of spay and neuter programs help reduce numbers.

The B.C. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is tackling what it calls “an overwhelming cat overpopulation crisis” as part of its five-year strategic plan.

The plan, announced last week, calls for more funding and expansion of spay and neuter programs to control feral cat numbers.

“I think it’s about time we focused on it a bit more,” said Leon Davis, Nanaimo SPCA branch manager. “In the ’70s and ’80s it was dogs everywhere and we’ve kind of beaten that down a little bit to where our shelters aren’t overwhelmed with dogs.”

Nanaimo’s spay and neuter program has treated about 6,000 cats since 2002.

Nanaimo SPCA shelters about 50 cats on average compared to an estimated 2,500 local free-roaming felines that form colonies where 75 per cent of kittens under six months die. Those that survive live about another two years.

Sterilizing and treating feral cats for disease and returning them to their colonies could control populations. Such a program might prove controversial since the animals are left facing harsh environments, said Davis.

“But the fact is the populations and the colonies are growing and spreading disease and we’ve got to look at some sort of feral program,” Davis said.

Licensing could help return more lost cats to their owners. Provincially, four per cent of lost cats are returned home, compared to 80 per cent for dogs.

Licence fees for the 700 cats that the Nanaimo branch adopts annually could cover enforcement costs as they do in Calgary, which has cat licensing.

SPCA staff also plan to take education programs into schools and summer camps to teach children about humane pet care.

B.C. SPCA’s five-year plan also calls for upgrading and constructing new shelters in key centres, so replacing the 35-year-old shelter on Labieux Road could be in the works, Davis said.

For information about B.C. SPCA Nanaimo branch and summer kids’ camps, please visit the shelter website at www.spca.bc.ca/branches/nanaimo/.