The controversial City of Nanaimo animal responsibility bylaw passed three readings at a council meeting this week.
The bylaw, which stirred up spirited public response when it was first introduced to council in November, was passed along with its associated fees and charges amendment bylaw , which itemizes dog licence fees a and impoundment and boarding maintenance fees for cats, dogs and livestock found at large.
Leon Davis, manager of B.C. SPCA’s Nanaimo branch, who spoke to council, said the bylaw will help lessen the number of stray cats in the city.
“It’s going to reduce a heavy burden on hundreds of community volunteers who are trying to stem the tide of suffering of outdoor and stray cats,” Davis said. “I think agencies, like ours and CatNap, we’ve kind of always felt like the young Dutch lad who tried to plug the leaking dike with his finger, while more leaks just keep springing up everywhere. There’s some people who have said to me they don’t see an issue in their neighbourhood and … it’s because of agencies like ours and CatNap, running at our capacity, to mitigate this issue and it’s not sustainable.”
Davis said the agency deals with about 500 stray cats annually. He spoke in support of the bylaw’s policy which waives seizure and impound fees for cats at large that have been picked up by bylaw enforcement officers, so long as those cats have been sterilized and have identification.
“I know there’s been some disagreement in the community,” Davis said. “Some of it’s driven from misinformation and misunderstanding and some, sadly, has been from outright disinformation, but I think that this is such a foundational welfare bylaw … if unintended issues or burdens arise because of it, it can be revisited any time and I think if we wait until there’s 100 per cent consensus on every minutia and detail on it … then this opportunity is going to be missed.”
Carley Colclough, Nanaimo Animal Control pound and adoption coordinator, expressed confidence that the new bylaw is adequate to support the work Nanaimo Animal Control is required to do.
“I think we have hit the most important points in terms of welfare standards, provisions for cats, removal of the breed-specific [pit bull] legislation, as well as closing several gaps existing in the current bylaw,” she said.
Coun. Ian Thorpe said the bylaw has been contentious and has taken a long time to get to the point of adoption, but it is reasonable, moderate and protects the safety of the animals in the community.
“It’s based on the best practices from other communities and I think it’s really important for our listeners to note that it’s not a case of the city wanting to go out there patrolling to chase down their cats,” Thorpe said. “This bylaw is complaint-driven, so that if a problem situation does arise, we have the tools that our bylaw officers can work with to hopefully deal with it.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog voted against second reading of the bylaw, saying he had hoped it would be returned to the city’s governance and priorities committee for further discussion, “given the desire, I think, to have the community to be at least generally supportive of the changes we’re making. I’m not convinced that general support is there yet.”
However, he said it appeared to be council’s will to pass three readings of the bylaw “and make changes later, if in fact, public reaction and the experiences of those enforcing it and the community require it.”