County lawmakers grant reprieve to cats and dogs

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Concerned about stray and dangerous cats in dogs in the past few months, Big Lakes County council is not ready to bolster its animal-control bylaw.
At its regular meeting Sept. 17, council passed a motion to remove proposed changes to add cat regulations to the bylaw. As a result, council will not make any changes to the animal control bylaw.
Administration proposed to add a program to spay and neuter cats and introduce an annual dog license fee of $25 for each canine.
Revenue from dog licences would have been used to create a program to spay and neuter cats, said Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.
Currently, the county requires dogs have licences that are free and for the lifetime of the animal.
Reeve Robert Nygaard favoured stronger regulations.
“This bylaw gives us more control,” Nygaard said. “Let’s give our animal-control officer more control.”
But some councillors says it isn’t realistic.
“It’s a dream world to spay and neuter cats,” South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart said.
She wonders how the county would catch the cats in the first place.
“By putting in a cat bylaw, it’s going to cost us a lot of money when it’s not going to do anything,” Stewart said.
High Praire East – Banana Belt Councillor Tyler Airth agreed.
“The general public’s going to see it as a waste of money.”
He supported a cat bylaw when the issue was discussed by council at is meeting May 11.
Hawken said the fee would help maintain a registry and data base of cats and dogs in the county.
A motion by Stewart to remove proposed regulations for cats from the animal-control bylaw was supported by Airth, Enilda – Big Meadow Councillor Lane Monteith and Grouard Councillor Jeff Chalifoux in a recorded vote requested by Kinuso Councillor Roberta Hunt.
Nygaard and Hunt voted against.
Joussard Councillor Richard Mifflin, North Gilwood North – Triangle Councillor Jim Zabolotniuk, and Heart River – Salt Prairie Councillor Garrett Zahacy were absent from the meeting.
Adding regulations for cats in hamlets would allow the animal control officer to assist residents regrding complaints about cats, writes Hawken in a
Assistance would have been limited to education and fines.
“Big Lakes County does not have the capacity to pick up cats and house them,” Hawken said.
“Therefore, further programming would be required to assist residents with concerns regarding stray and feral cats.”
Stray and dangerous cats and dogs in the past several months have concerned council. A rash of roaming and feral cats in Faust in April and May led council to direct administration to consider regulations for cats in the animal control bylaw.
The concern was raised by Hunt at the council meeting May 11. She suggested a bylaw be drafted after an abundance of stray cats were reported. One house had 30 cats, many of them feral, Hunt said.
A total of nine dog attacks in the county were reported in the summer months, Hawken said.
Stewart said most of the subject dogs come from neighbouring communities outside the county boundaries.
During one incident, a 26-year-old Kinuso man was attacked by several dogs in the hamlet during the early morning hours of June 12. He was flown by STARS air ambulance to hospital in Edmonton where he received 19 staples in his head and scalp and another 10 on his side and required surgery.
Stewart believes that responsible dog owners would comply with paying a licence but the problem pets are owned by those who don’t buy a licence and don’t care.

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