Lacombe defines responsible pet ownership, identification in proposed bylaw

There will be a concrete way to deal with runaway cats in the community with the City of Lacombe's proposed Responsible Animal Ownership bylaw. Here, feral cats swarm the deck of a residential home northwest of Lacombe near Gull Lake. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The City of Lacombe is not only expected to implement licensing for cats, but key in on what responsible pet ownership should look like in their Responsible Animal Ownership Bylaw.

On Monday, council made a number of revisions to the proposed bylaw, including the elimination of tattooing as an identification option for spayed or neutered pets that would allow owners to receive a $75 discount on their licence fees. The change would mean pets that are tattooed for identification purposes and not microchipped would be grouped in with unaltered, unidentified pets for a full $150 licence fee.

The move is meant to be “incentive” for pet owners to choose to microchip their pets rather than tattoo, as it would be easier for Bylaw Enforcement to scan for chips rather than check for tattoos.

“I see microchipping as being a very convenient way to go about identifying an animal,” said Mayor Grant Creasey.

“I don’t think (tattooing) should be considered simply because it doesn’t make it easy for our bylaw personnel to identify an animal….To try and look in both ears, lip or wherever the heck these tattoos are is a waste of time and for responsible animal owners that want their animal returned, I think giving that $75 discount more than makes up for the cost of the insertion of the microchip.”

Spaying and neutering fees range between $300-$400 at most area veterinary clinics. Tattooing, which is a recognized identification system throughout the province, can be included in spay and neuter fees at no additional charge, while a microchip can range from about $30-$60 depending on the clinic according to Financial Service Director Diane Piche.

As such, some council members saw the $150 lifetime fee for owners who choose not to alter their animals nor microchip them was seen as “cheaper” than going through the spay/neuter and microchip process.

Coun. Don Gullekson considered changing the lifetime fee to an annual fee for those who did not identify their animals, saying he understood not altering animals due to a desire to breed. Creasey also said he felt that spaying and neutering were a “great thing to do,” but should be more of a recommendation rather than a requirement for a licence fee reduction as it was not “relevant” to the return of an animal.

Chief Administrative Office Matthew Goudy said the alteration component was included for several reasons, including dealing with stray pets.

“Number one is the proliferation of stray pets. It’s not as big of a problem here in Lacombe, but certainly if you look at the nuisances caused by pets that are unaltered and in heat, that sort of thing, they typically are associated with a higher rate of non-compliance than pets that are altered,” Goudy said.

Council then decided 6-1 in favour of removing tattooing as a viable identification method for animals. Only Coun. Cora Hoekstra voted against the change.

Another notable change to the bylaw includes setting the age of licensing to one year to allow owners a chance to get kittens and puppies spayed or neutered and microchipped to qualify for the reduced licensing fee as no refunds for licences will be given should a pet be altered and microchipped after they are registered.

A revised version of the bylaw will come back at the Feb. 25, 2019 meeting for third reading.

Once passed, all new animals in the community will be under the bylaw. Owners who have paid their 2019 licences will have their annual licences transferred to a lifetime licence, so long as there is proof of alteration and identification. Those who have not altered or provided appropriate identification of their pet will be asked to pay the difference between what they’ve already paid and the full $150 licence fee.

All owners will be encouraged to licence as soon as possible, but cat licence enforcement will not begin until January 2020.