British Columbia

Merritt, B.C., overrun by stray cats

An animal protection group in Merritt, B.C. may face criminal charges for setting up stations to feed more than 500 stray cats in the community.

Bylaw officers ask RCMP to consider mischief charges against animal feeders

An animal protection group in Merritt, B.C. is causing controversy for feeding hundreds of stray cats.

The city's bylaw department says it has found eight feeding stations around the community and officers are making daily rounds to clean up the 40 kgs of cat food set out by the animal lovers.

The city says the group needs to stop feeding the feral cats, as it's creating health issues.

One of the feeding stations is near Kathlene Dahlquist-Gray's house. She says the animals are using her back yard as a litter box.

The Nicola Valley Animal Rescue says more than 500 feral cats roam the streets of Merritt, B.C. The group has been feeding the stray cats, frustrating some residents and bylaw officers. ((Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons))

"The smell from all of the cat crap, it was awful," said Dahlquist-Gray.

"It's not pleasant on so many levels and it's aggravating that these people — I imagine they are fraught with good intent — but they are causing a serious, serious problem."

RCMP consider mischief charges

Bylaw officer Bob Davis says he's asked the RCMP to consider criminal charges against the animal feeders.

"I contacted the RCMP as a result of looking at what kind of charges the city could bring up with regards to the dumping of this garbage on city property. One of the avenues that we could take that would take it to the criminal code would be mischief."

Angie Koczkur, with Nicola Valley Animal Rescue, says they care for more than 500 stray cats. She says the group is the only one doing anything about the city's feral cat problem.

"And don't expect that in the dead of winter I'm going to end my program and turn my back on these animals. Would I then not be charged with animal cruelty from the SPCA?"

Koczkur says along with feeding the cats, the group also catches strays and sterilizes them.

She says Merritt needs to look to cities like Calgary, which she says have proper strategies for dealing with feral cat populations.

With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan