Nanaimo city councillors have voted to recommend a bylaw that will keep cats from roaming.
Councillors, at a governance and priorities committee meeting Monday, voted on potential changes to a draft animal responsibility bylaw based on public feedback gathered since the proposed bylaw generated strong response when it was brought before council in the fall.
Councillors voted on six ‘themes’ in the bylaw, the most controversial of which was the proposal to prevent cats from roaming off of their owners’ properties.
Council voted for the first of three options – a complete ban of cats roaming on public and private properties, a ban applying only to private properties, or the status quo of no ban on roaming – even though most respondents during the public engagement period expressed opposition to a ban. Of approximately 400 people who shared their opinions on prohibiting cats from being at large, 57 per cent of respondents were opposed and 43 per cent in favour.
Those favouring a no-roam bylaw cited impact on wildlife, health concerns around feces in gardens, spraying of property, concern for welfare of roaming cats, and noisy cat fights at night.
People opposed expressed concern over a lack of rodent control, inability to retrain cats to stay indoors, and concern that keeping cats indoors denies them the right to roam free and hunt as is their nature.
Members of council in favour of the ban included Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, who argued cats should not be allowed to roam on public or private property where they can defecate in playground sandboxes or in community gardens.
Coun. Ben Geselbracht said the animal control bylaw “isn’t about tethering every cat,” but is about having provisions in place to deal with the worst offenders and avoid conflicts between neighbours, citing a situation he was aware of in which a property owner became so frustrated with roaming cats he began trapping them.
Geselbracht said concerns about the bylaw have “been blown grossly out of proportion” and said a bylaw is needed along with an education component as Nanaimo’s population grows.
“This will only become more of an issue. This bylaw allows the foundation to start building the understanding so that we don’t end up with the situation that we have, to keep cats that are used to roaming around, inside,” Geselbracht said. “They’ll already be used to that kind of care. It’s important to think long-term.”
Karen Robertson, deputy city clerk, said the bylaw, if implemented, will not mean that cats will not be allowed outdoors and the city is not going to go around rounding up cats, but would respond on a complaint basis. She said controlling cat roaming is a growing trend in Canada and Oak Bay, Victoria, Esquimalt, Duncan, North Cowichan and other communities have already adopted no-roam bylaws.
Coun. Ian Thorpe said he supported the first option because it keeps the city’s response reasonable to problems that might occur, it allows flexibility and follows best practices.
“I know we’re certainly not going to keep everybody happy. We have to be prepared for that, but that’s the nature of the beast, no pun intended,” he said.
Councillors also voted in favour of the five other themes in the draft bylaw which includes mandatory identification of cats, mandatory sterilization of cats, reaffirming the definition of ‘aggressive dog,’ and establishing a limit on the number of pets to 12 animals on a property. Councillors also voted to recommend the animal responsibility bylaw in general.
City staff will have the municipal solicitor review any changes requested to the bylaw and forward the revised bylaw to council for consideration of three readings.
To learn more about the proposed animal responsibility bylaw, visit www.getinvolvednanaimo.ca/animals-in-nanaimo.