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.
“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.
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.”