Who let the cats out? Cornwall moves to curb stray population

Cornwall city council has endorsed a proposed bylaw that would require cat owners in the eastern Ontario municipality to keep their pets indoors and have them spayed or neutered within the next five years.

Monday’s endorsement is council’s latest attempt to solve the city’s feral cat problem, an issue that made headlines in 2017 when residents complained about the number of cats strutting in the streets and wreaking havoc to private property.

The local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) took in more than 700 cats that year.

On Wednesday, Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement told CBC’s Ottawa Morning the city conducted a survey about the feral cat problem earlier this year and received over 1,200 responses.

“So this is an issue that the community is concerned about, and it was time for city council to take action,” she said.

Clement said she anticipates the new animal control bylaw will be controversial. The draft endorsed by council uses words such as “encourage” and “suggest” because the city realizes enforcement will be challenging, she said.

“So we’re realistic as well, and that’s why we’re giving ourselves a five-year timeline,” she said.

You feed it, you own it

Clement said the city will set aside $40,000 in its 2020 budget to subsidize spaying and neutering of cats whose owners meet a financial need requirement, and will also help the SPCA with the cost of sterilizing feral cats.

The proposed bylaw also includes a provision that would deem anyone who feeds a stray cat to be its owner, and therefore responsible to have it spayed or neutered.

“We recognize that when people do that, it is for humane reasons. They don’t want to see feral cats starving, and so that’s what happens. The issue with that though is that it can increase a cat colony in a particular neighbourhood,” Clement said.

She said the bylaw should be presented to council in the next couple of months in hopes of passing it before the new year.

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