Lacombe to implement cat licensing through Responsible Animal Ownership 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 changing its strategy on nuisance animals.

During their regular meeting on Monday, council gave first and second reading to a new, proposed Responsible Animal Ownership Bylaw, which will introduce cat licensing as well as amalgamate all animal bylaws, including those governing livestock, urban hens and bees, into a single bylaw.

It will also introduce a new lifetime licence fee for both cats and dogs, as a way to not just return more pets to their owners, but tackle those ‘problem’ pet owners in the city specifically.

“The licensing structure that is being proposed is to make it reasonable and not cost-prohibitive to register an animal with the city,” said Director of Corporate Services Diane Piche.

“Moving to a lifetime licences will result in lower licence renewal revenues for the city, but the robustness of this bylaw could result in high fines for those who are not responsible pet owners.”

The need for a “cat bylaw,” which has resulted in the proposed Responsible Animal Ownership Bylaw, came about during Nuisance Bylaw discussions, and “nuisance” cats requiring regulations.

According to 2018 statistics from Klassic Kennels, who provide animal control services for the City of Lacombe, 79 per cent of dogs (23 dogs) taken off the street and into the shelter were returned to their owner, while 21 per cent (6 dogs) were adopted to new homes.

By comparison, a total of 52 cats were impounded, and just four per cent (2 cats) were returned to their owners, while 96 per cent (50 cats) had to be readopted.

The difference, according to Piche, was information collected from the owners through the licensing process that allowed dogs to be returned home.

Dog licences, which were $23 per dog or $13 per senior, at present need to be renewed on an annual basis. However, under the new lifetime system, those registered will be automatically given a  lifetime licence.

New dogs and cats will now have lifetime licence rates as follows:

  • Unaltered (not spayed or neutered), and not microchipped/tattooed: $150
  • Unaltered and microchipped/ tattooed: $75
  • Unaltered and microchipped/tattooed: $75
  • Neutered or spayed and not microchipped/tattooed: $75
  • Neutered or spayed and micropchipped/tattooed: $15.

‘Nuisance’ pets that are determined will be assessed an annual ‘nuisance’ fee until such time as the animal stops being a nuisance, as well.

While first and second reading were passed, there will be some kinks to works out with the bylaw.

For example, administration and council will have to decide the timeframe one would have to licence cats after adoption to allow owners a chance to get their pets spayed or neutered as well as microchipped or tattooed should they so choose. Owners are expected to have at least six months, but that may be extended to nine months or a year.

They’ll also work on a definition to differentiate between someone who owns a pet as opposed to someone who is harbouring one, such as animal foster homes, pet sitters, and cases where an animal may take up residence on a property where they do not necessarily belong.

They’ll also come up with an implementation plan with regards to when the bylaw and licensing of cats and dogs would go into effect.

“It could be immediately, it could be with an education program informing all the residents of what’s going to happen and then as of Jan. 2020 that’s when we start enforcement,” said Piche. “We’ll figure all that out.”

It is expected changes and third reading to the bylaw will go before council at their Feb. 25 meeting.