Big Lakes gets tough on cats

Richard Froese
South Peace News

A bylaw to control cats in Big Lakes County hamlets has been adopted in an effort to protect people and reduce growing concerns about dangerous cats.

At its regular meeting June 28, council gave final reading to amend its animal control bylaw to add regulations to control cats at the highest level of service.

Council also agreed the bylaw would be handled by staff responding to reports by concerned citizens.

Reeve Robert Nygaard said the bylaw is about safety of people.

“It’s cats running at large we need to deal with,” he said.

“We have to have a bylaw to control these cats before somebody gets hurt.”

North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Jim Zabolotniuk agreed.

“If you don’t have a bylaw, you can’t deal with the situation,” he said.

“You have to have a bylaw.”

Now adopted, the bylaw puts a limit on the number of cats people in hamlets can have. No person shall keep or have more than three cats on any property in a hamlet.

Amendments were made as council has been dealing with a rising concern of the growing number of stray and feral cats in hamlets for more than one year.

Kinuso was the first hamlet where dangerous cats was raised as an issue.

Concerns have since extended into Faust and Joussard in the past two months.

Council also passed a motion to direct administration to draft a licensing fee system for cats and dogs and include a cost analysis. If passed, fees and the program would start in January 2024.

South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart questioned the costs.

“My problem is what is it going to end up costing?” Stewart ased.

She suggested the County could control cats without a bylaw.

Adding a cat bylaw could cost council more than $7,000 to initially implement, said Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.

To increase regulations, Hawken estimated it will cost about $7,500 in the first year to add services and equipment and $2,250 annually afterwards.

The biggest cost in the first year would be $3,000-$5,000 to add housing for cats at the animal control facility in High Prairie, Hawken said.

Council allocated $7,500 for expenses and authorized administration to proceed on the work.

The highest level of service in the bylaw includes the following regulations:
-Owners must not allow cats to run at large; bite or attack a person; chase, challenge or attack any domestic animal, cause any other damage or nuisance; no person shall in any way allow a cat to become or remain a cast in distress.

Responding to complaints:
-Animal control staff will speak with residents, complainants, witnesses and others.
-Enforcement involves issuing written and/or verbal warnings, issuing municipal tags or issuing provincial tickets through the Town of High Prairie peace officers.
-Cats may be picked up by animal control staff at their discretion.

Regulations for the animal care facility state that:
-Impounded cats placed at the BLC animal care facility shall be kept for 72 hours subject to the owner’s right to redeem the animal upon payment of applicable fines and/or fees.
-Unclaimed cats may be transferred to a rescue organization, placed up for adoption by BLC or euthanized due to the cat’s behaviour, health, or limited capacity of the animal care facility.

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