Sackville Town Council backing away from licensing cats

Lila enjoys indoor retirement after an accomplished career killing birds, mice & insects

Sackville councillors appear to be backing away from licensing cats after receiving a report from town staff recommending against it.

Instead, councillors are expected to ask the town’s Climate Change Advisory Committee next week to suggest how to educate cat owners about the need to prevent their pets from killing thousands of song birds.

“It sounds like sending this to the Climate Change Committee is like passing it off, but actually, it’s a really good idea simply because birds are under real threat from climate change as well,” said Councillor Sabine Dietz at tonight’s Sackville council meeting.

“It makes sense to me,” she added.

Dietz and other councillors noted that Richard Elliot, who serves on the advisory committee, helped conduct a scientific study on the human-related causes of bird deaths in Canada.

That 2013 study concluded that domestic and feral cats kill millions of birds every year.

Cat bylaw still needed

Councillor Michael Tower

While he agreed with asking Elliot and the advisory committee to make recommendations, Councillor Michael Tower suggested some form of cat registration or licensing may still be needed.

“The idea of knowing that we can spay and neuter is pretty important I think when it comes to controlling the number of cats that are out there,” he said.

He was referring to the animal control bylaw that makes licences cheaper if the pet is neutered or spayed. Licensing would also enable the animal control officer to capture roaming cats and notify their owners. Under the current bylaw, dog owners whose pets have been caught while running at large must pay a $20 capture fee, an additional $25 for each day the animal was impounded plus the costs of any treatment the dog received while in the town’s custody.

Tower added that perhaps the new council elected in November will consider including cats in the animal control bylaw after it takes office next year.

Assistant town clerk Becky Goodwin said staff began researching the issue after local residents Les Hicks and Susan Gourley made presentations calling for bylaw changes to keep cats from roaming freely.

Among other things, Hicks urged council to 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.

Hicks said that aside from killing song birds, freely roaming cats can be a nuisance, peeing and pooping in neighbours’ 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 that cause premature death or serious injuries.

Costs of cat control

In her report to council tonight, Goodwin said restricting cats could result in an increase in the numbers of mice in residential areas.

“Anti-roaming laws lead to animal control picking up strays, which could result in the euthanization of community cats,” she added.

“If we include cats in the Animal Control By-Law, the Animal Control Officer would have to be a full-time position,” Goodwin said, adding that after municipal amalgamation, more than one officer would be needed with start-up costs estimated at more than $50,000.

To read Goodwin’s full report to council, click here.

Reactions on Facebook

Deputy Mayor Andrew Black

Deputy Mayor Andrew Black said that judging by the reaction on Facebook to recent stories about cat licensing, it’s clear that people don’t want it.

“There is a resounding no from the public for this bylaw change,” he said.

“One of the big ones is registration,” he added.

“People don’t want to have to pay any more; they don’t want to pay for their cats, they don’t want to pay for their dogs,” Black said.

“I wanted to make sure that people knew that that was out there and this is what people are saying in the public.”

“I think this is a very dangerous ground we’re walking on when we start quoting Facebook,” Councillor Dietz replied.

“If we would be listening to Facebook, we probably would all drown ourselves,” she added.

“I would suggest very strongly if we do want an inventory of what Sackville folks think, we go out directly and put a note in their mailbox and ask them to respond to that instead of thinking that Facebook would give us any kind of inkling of what the community thinks,” Dietz concluded.

This entry was posted in Town of Sackville and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Sackville Town Council backing away from licensing cats

  1. Christian Corbet says:

    How about focusing on economic development…

  2. Jeff Stubbert says:

    Is it just me or do I detect a bit of a condescending tone from one of our beloved counsel members . Really dislike that discourse and it’s not helpful!

    • Kelly says:

      That councillor is certainly showing true Characteristics that I knew were there and not who they tried to pretend to be to the voters of the last election. Hopefully one and done for the sake of future entity 40.

  3. Thomas says:

    Maybe we should ban bird feeders and bird watching? Bird watching has been revealed as one of the largest stressors towards birds, not to mention their habitats. Also, feeding wild animals is never a great option but for whatever reason feeding birds has become normalized.
    Also, Dietz seems a little tone deaf with her comment about FB. We’re in Sackville where a large majority of people are on facebook and voice their opinions there. Just because Dietz doesn’t like FB personally doesn’t mean her constituents voices aren’t valid. They’re your constituents Dietz and they should be heard no matter the medium.

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Thomas,

      Can you provide some references for your claim that bird watching has been revealed as one of the largest stressors towards birds? The National Audobon Society, one of the first, if not the first, of the North American bird conservation groups, lists on its website many of the psychological benefits that people receive from watching birds but I could find no mention there of negative impacts or stressors on birds from this activity. I find it hard to understand how watching birds at backyard feeders through a window would cause stress to them.

      Regarding feeding birds, their website notes that “Providing feeders means taking on a responsibility, as in addition to food they can present a whole host of risks, including the spread of viruses and parasites, a greater chance of window strikes, and increased vulnerability to cats and raptors. But if best practices have been followed, research shows that feeders may actually help birds to survive and reproduce.” Those best practices include regular cleaning of feeders to prevent disease transmission, placing feeders at least 30 feet from windows to prevent window strikes, and locating the feeders away from any form of cover that domestic cats or other predators could use to ambush the birds.

      • Thomas says:

        Not one of the largest, but it is still a stressor. Sure there’s many benefits for us as humans, there’s no benefits to the birds and if anything works against them.
        Check out page 285 – “Problems with birdwatching”

      • Les Hicks says:

        Hey Thomas,

        That’s an interesting paper that discusses the negative impact on bird populations of bird watchers who don’t follow ethical guidelines or who lack the knowledge of how to minimize their impact. However, as the author points out, “despite the potential for disturbance, birdwatching, especially if properly conducted, is far preferable to land clearing, hunting and other exploitative, unsustainable activities.” He goes on to state that “ ‘citizen science’ projects, where ornithological data are collected by dedicated amateur birdwatchers (for example, the Christmas bird counts that take place around Christmas and counts during breeding bird surveys), can contribute substantially to ornithological knowledge.” I’ve taken part in Christmas bird counts and have rarely come in close contact with any of the birds that were counted (that’s why most birders carry binoculars). It all comes down to showing respect for the various bird species and being careful not to disturb nesting sites, etc.

        That being said, we’re really talking apples and oranges here. This paper focuses on large guided tour groups, or irresponsible non-guided individuals or groups moving into various species’ habitats while not keeping appropriate distances from the species being observed. This does not in any way relate to people watching, through their windows, the birds that come to their properly placed and maintained backyard feeders.

        If you do some more reading online you will find that predation by domestic cats is by far the leading human related stressor on bird populations.

  4. Wayne Feindel says:

    People! People! Have you gone to the birds or the cats? You are definitely suffering from decommunitization as Identity 40, which seems to have resulted in your disconnectedness as an urban people from your rural neighbors ,and are now obviously over whelmed by over-bureaucratization. Just months away from being sacked (sorry) by Fredericton-A cat By-law not Bill 40 is your major issue? McKenna started the process of centralization and Higgs is following through. Ironic that our local communities should survive two great wars and on the eve of another one put a bullet to our heads. Come on folks!! Gone to the dogs are we?.

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Wayne, you forgot to mention the ongoing crisis of trying to keep our Sackville Hospital from closing. However, I think residents should have more faith that our town council can deal with more than one or two issues at a time. For your interest, here’s a link to a Nature Canada article that discusses both the hazards to outdoor cats and the severe impact of domestic cats on bird populations. It promotes municipalities revising their animal control by-laws to prohibit cats from roaming freely, and offers advice on how to best approach this change, as well as examples of the wording of by-laws for municipalities that have already done so :

  5. Bob says:

    What has confused me most about this recent discussion is that it seems to not take into account that the current by-law already restricts cat owners from allowing their pets to roam at large. Licensing specific to cats is a different issue, but people seem to be discussing this as if the animal control officer isn’t already able to intervene with problematic cat owners.

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Bob, unfortunately that is not the case. The current animal control by-law makes specific reference to dogs. Cats are not included in it.

Leave a Reply