Claws come out in Calgary's cat licensing bylaw
Pet owners face $250 fines for unlicensed felines
The full strength of Calgary's animal control bylaw came into effect Tuesday with heavy fines being enforced for people who do not license their cats, or allow them to run around on other people's property.
Cat licences have been mandatory since Jan. 1, 2007, but city officials said they gave residents a grace period on fines to encourage pet owners to register their cats.
"We promised the public that [in] the first year of cat licensing we wouldn't be laying any charges. It was going to be sort of a soft approach," said Bill Bruce, the city's director of animal and bylaw services.
With 2008 starting, "if you have an unlicensed cat, you'll get the ticket the same as an unlicensed dog would," he added.
Dogs are already licensed in Calgary. The city estimates there are about 95,000 licensed dogs, with another 10,000 that need to be registered.
By comparison, about 31,000 cats have been licensed so far, with another 75,000 to go.
"Already, we're seeing a reduced number of intakes into the shelter here," Bruce said. "We've doubled our return-to-owner rate, and we've reduced our euthanasia rate by half."
Billboards paid for by the city have popped up along streets in recent weeks, warning all pet owners that there is zero tolerance for unlicensed dogs or cats.
Calgary city council passed the cat licensing bylaw in March 2006 in an effort to keep the stray cat population down.
The yearly fee for licensing cats is $30 for a cat that is not spayed or neutered, $10 for a cat aged three months or older that is fixed, and $15 for a kitten aged three to six months that isn't fixed.
Bruce said all the city's animal bylaw fees and fines go directly toward helping animals, with city-run programs such as an adoption program and emergency medical care for injured cats and dogs.
"We're in the process now of building our spay/neuter clinic to provide free spay/neuters for people who can't afford to have that done. That'll all be funded out of cat licensing," he said.
"All the costs for that all come out of cat licensing, all the costs for the work we do with cats in the community — rehousing cats, helping cats that have been injured, all those things — all paid for out of cat licensing, not tax dollars."