Sackville town staff weighing pros & cons of licensing cats

Ambrose (nickname Gub Gub) out for an autumn romp on his leash

Sackville municipal staff are planning to make a presentation to council soon on whether the town should add domestic cats to its animal control bylaw.

It could mean that owners would be required to buy licences for their cats and keep them from roaming freely on other people’s properties.

CAO Jamie Burke said staff are conducting research on cat licensing and will bring the issue to council soon, likely in March or April.

He made the comment after Sackville resident Les Hicks called on the town to adopt a bylaw similar to the one in Riverview where pet owners are required to buy a $15 annual licence for all neutered or spayed cats and dogs or a $30 one if their pets aren’t neutered or spayed.

“I realize this can be a contentious issue for some Sackville residents who feel that such a bylaw change is unnecessary,” Hicks told council on Monday.

He then went on to outline the reasons why he believes cats should not be roaming freely.

“Domestic cats are estimated to kill between 100 and 350 million birds per year in Canada,” Hicks said citing figures from an academic research study.

Sackville resident Les Hicks calls for cat licensing

“Songbird and other bird populations in Canada are being severely affected by habitat loss, pesticides and contaminants, collision with buildings and vehicles and the climate crisis we are all facing,” he added.

“They do not need the extra stress on their populations imposed by invasive species and introduced predators like domestic cats.”

Hicks said freely roaming cats can be a nuisance to neighbours, peeing and pooping in vegetable gardens and sandboxes or spraying on objects everywhere to mark their territory.

He also argued that it’s better for the cats themselves to remain indoors because outside they face many hazards including from cars and other animals.

“Cats left outside to roam freely face an average life expectancy of two to five years,” he said citing figures from the Ontario SPCA.

“In contrast, cats living within the home enjoy an average life expectancy of twelve-and-a-half years,” Hicks added.

He said many municipalities in Canada have adopted responsible pet ownership bylaws that now apply to cats as well as dogs including Montreal, Mississauga, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Moncton and Riverview.

Earlier presentation

Susan Gourley presenting to town council on Dec. 6th

Council heard a similar presentation in December from Sackville resident Susan Gourley who showed a slide saying that 466 household cats in Sackville would kill about 134 birds per week.

“If you think of it, here we are in Sackville and we have an opportunity to stop 134 birds a week from dying,” she said.

“What are we going to do?”

Councillor Sabine Dietz seemed sympathetic to bylaw restrictions on cats. She said that as a biologist, she was already aware of the heavy toll cats take on birds.

Councillor Bill Evans said after both presentations that he sees the issue as one of fairness.

“I confess that I had never thought of this before,” he said.

“But now that I have, I am convinced that it is reasonable and worthwhile,” he added.

“Fairness is one of my important principles when making decisions and I just can’t see a reason why we regulate the licensing and movement of dogs and not of cats,” Evans said.

“If it’s good for dogs, it’s good for cats.”

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15 Responses to Sackville town staff weighing pros & cons of licensing cats

  1. bestpar says:

    So let’s take cars off the road while we are at it to stop people from being killed too then…

  2. Mike Gallant says:

    This is the usual nonsense going on in our town. You know – that “hospital thing” or the recent gut wrenchings over municipal amalgamation- but let’s concentrate on cats. Ok, Les you’re up – give us you’re further depth on this issue (please, less than 8 paragraphs). Or let’s Sabine or Bill weigh in with their wisdom on this burning public imperative. good gawd…..we’re doomed.

    • azi says:

      Exactly Mike……Now that all problems are solved, we should discuss Sackville Faisans. Unbelievable!!!!!

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Mike, you are correct that there are very important issues facing Town Council – namely trying to keep our hospital open and dealing with the amalgamation that’s being forced on us by Higgs’ dictatorial approach to municipal government reform. I acknowledged both in my presentation but pointed out that simply revising the animal control by-law should not create a significant amount of work for town staff who are already dealing with these issues. The timing is indeed unfortunate but I feel confident that town staff can deal with more than one task at a time.

      Bruce provided a link in his article to the 2 page presentation that I made to Town Council. I can try to condense it for those with short attention spans if you would like.



  3. That cited research report is enough reason to control cats in our town:

    “Even at the low end, predation by house cats is probably the largest human-related source of bird mortality in Canada.”

    With minimal cost to the oft-cited ‘taxpayer’.

  4. Douglas Key says:

    Doug Key Please remember cats play a significant role in the control of rats and mice. Both of which are present in Lower Sackville as well in Middle and Upper Sackville. In Upper Sackville we have significant numbers of feral cats, none of which could be licenced. We have these because town people seem to think it is fine to drop them off in the country instead of euthanizing them. If you wish to go down this road please leave the rural portions of the community out of any such bylaws. .

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Doug, we live in Upper Sackville as well and are aware of the stray/feral population here. I suggested to town council that if they decide to revise the animal control by-law that Riverview’s would be a good model – their by-law refers to ‘resident owned cats’ in the prohibition against roaming freely and leaves the care and control of stray and feral cats to animal welfare groups like CA-R-MA. The Sackville chapter of CA-R-MA already performs this function. The goal of the TNR (trap, neuter, return) approach is to eventually reach a point where there are no more stray or feral cats once the existing outdoor cats reach the end of their natural life spans, at which point rescue groups like CA-R-MA will not be required. However, as long as people continue to let their cats roam free, a certain percentage of those will end up as strays and as they have litters the offspring will eventually become feral, and the cycle will continue. There are already far too many cats being euthanized each year in Canada due to overcrowding and lack of resources. I used to pick up cats at local pounds in the Edmonton area to be taken into foster care with a rescue group until homes could be found for them, and for each cat that we had room for, I had to leave five or more behind to be euthanized. For anyone who has any empathy for our companion animals, it is extremely disturbing to see approximately 20,000 cats euthanized each year in Canada when the overpopulation problem is easily preventable by encouraging responsible pet ownership.

      As I mentioned in the presentation to council, we didn’t notice any difference in the number of mice that we had in our rural house after we started using a cateo (cat run) than when our cats were roaming freely. For those people, like farmers, who have outbuildings for which they need mouse control, in many cases they could use cateos for their cats as well if the doors of the building can be kept closed most of the time – the cats would have access to the outdoors when they want and to the inside of the barn/shed to catch mice that might be present. If the building isn’t suitable for setting up a cateo then the other option is using the old traditional mouse traps or the more modern live traps which can trap many mice at a time. From the information that I can find on-line, there seems to be serious debate about just how effective cats are at rodent control compared to traps.

      Best regards,


  5. Wrayton says:

    I trap and euthanize about forty cats a year. I feed their carcasses to the crows. What goes around comes around.

    • Laura Landon says:

      Jeebus, Wrayton, that is absolutely horrifying. You kill 40 cats a year?! How do you do this? And how do you know you are not killing people’s pets? Aside from it being illegal and cruel to lure and kill healthy cats, it’s appallingly unnecessary. We have shelters that will take these cats, and people (including me) who will pick them up and take them there. Please phone me next time you have a cat you plan to kill, and I will take it from you. I’m in the phone book.

    • Jon says:

      Any RCMP reading here, please take note of Wrayton’s hobby.

      • Percy Best says:

        It is no wonder that one sees so few cats around these days if Wrayton is killing them off at the rate he states. If he has been at it for the past 10 years then he has killed 400 cats according to his figures and we certainly do have a healthy crow population. I would imagine that the Moncton SPCA would surely be interested in initiating an investigation.

      • Wrayton says:

        Here kitty kitty…

        Crows can live up to 29 years and are as smart as a 7 year old human. Amazing really. In fact all birds are pretty amazing. I guess cats are OK too, but I prefer birds. If crows were murdering 134 cats per week here in town, you cat owners might want someone to do something about it.

        And no I don’t really kill cats…don’t believe everything you read on the internet, because…you know…FAKE NEWS!

  6. Jon says:

    Anyone so concerned about avian ecology that they want a law to keep cats indoors should be in favour of bylaws banning bird feeders.

    Why allow the feeding of wild animals within town limits? Bird feeders can spread disease. They can also distort the natural distribution of birds.

    Even the “academic research study” cited by Hicks (a paper that involves a lot of estimation and guesswork because of “a dearth of Canadian data on predation by cats”) states that urban pet cats are a relatively minor contributor to bird kills (one-sixth), predation being disproportionately caused by feral cats.

    And really, if “freely roaming cats can be a nuisance” is a justification for licenses, then arguably we should be tagging and licensing undergraduates, especially during orientation week, and around St Patrick’s Day.

    Or we could just all relax and acknowledge that Sackville’s occasional roaming cat is not driving any of our local birds to extinction, rather than add another layer of bureaucratic micromanaging in the town when we should be concentrating on the lack of doctors, the closure of hospital beds, catastrophic flooding from global warming, noise pollution, pointlessly high taxes, carbon emissions from unnecessary driving, etc etc.

    Conflict of interest disclosure: I am not a cat owner.

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Jon,

      If you check different sources on-line, you will find that there doesn’t appear to be scientific consensus one way or the other on whether feeding birds is harmful or helpful to various species. Most of the sites state that it is a very complicated question to figure out but in general bird feeders likely help some species and have negative impacts on others in terms of competition for habitat space, etc, but overall the feeling appears to be that the impact is likely neutral. Bird feeders CAN be sources of infection for birds, which is why it is important to clean them regularly with bleach to kill any bacteria, viruses, or fungus that might be present (not as much of a problem in our cold Canadian winters). When the disease that was affecting finches and other song birds was widespread in the maritimes in the last couple of years the Atlantic Wildlife Institute in Cookville recommended not using bird feeders in the warmer months and waiting for colder sub zero weather before restocking the feeders. I think the majority of people tend to use their feeders in the winter months when food sources for birds are more scarce. Besides the infection issue, the other precautions listed are to place feeders in open areas where cats are less able to ambush birds and also to place them at least 30 feet from windows to prevent birds gathering at the feeders from inadvertently flying into them.

      Re the academic study, of course the numbers are best estimates the authors made from statistical projections of available data (I presume they did not have the research funding required to place one grad student at each feeder throughout the country for weeks on end to do physical counts). Their study is a review of the data and literature from other sources. They estimate that domestic cats account for approximately 1/6th of the birds killed by cats, and the estimated total number of deaths by cats is in the 100 to 350 million birds per year, so that would mean that domestic cats kill approximately 17 to 58 million birds per year in Canada, which I would consider a significant impact on bird populations. They estimate that the remainder are killed by feral cats. Where do you think feral cats come from? They don’t grow on trees. Lost or abandoned pet cats that don’t have close contact with humans can quickly become feral if they develop a fear of humans, and their offspring (up to 3 litters of 4 to 5 kittens each per year) will definitely be feral if they don’t have human contact. This is why humane societies across the country require their adopted cats to be spayed and neutered. They also advocate keeping cats indoors or under supervision outdoors for their own safety and to prevent the increase in the numbers of feral cats due to irresponsible owners who get their cats from other sources and don’t have them spayed or neutered.

      There are definitely many issues facing us, such as those that you mentioned, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore a problem that is so easily fixable by educating pet owners about the importance of having their pets spayed or neutered and preventing them from having a negative impact on other species or their human neighbours.

  7. Marika says:

    “Fairness is one of my important principles when making decisions and I just can’t see a reason why we regulate the licensing and movement of dogs and not of cats,” Evans said.

    For once, I sort-of agree with him, though not in the way that he would think:
    let’s stop licensing dogs, as well. That would be a step in the right direction.

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