Montreal

Quebec cat lover sent to jail after refusing to give up his pets

A Quebec man is vowing to keep his six elderly cats, despite recently being sent to jail for breaking a bylaw that says he's allowed only one cat at a time.

Sylvain Brunette vows to keep cats, despite receiving fines, spending four days in jail

Sylvain Brunette holds a legal notice that was sent to him because he owns too many cats. Brunette, 54, owns his six cats but local bylaws only allow one. (Stéphane Brunette)

A Quebec man is vowing to keep his six cats, despite recently being sent to jail after breaking a local bylaw that says he's allowed only one cat at a time.

Sylvain Brunette, 54, spent four days in Quebec's largest provincial prison earlier this month after he refused to pay fines totaling over $1,000 for owning too many cats.

5 cats too many

Brunette's trouble with the law didn't start until he moved to Franklin, Que., a municipality of 1,700 people about an hour south of Montreal.

Five years ago, Brunette rented a home in the country, where he moved with his six then 10-year-old cats. The cats were neutered. Initially three of them spent time outdoors, but shortly after moving, he decided to keep them all inside.

He said his cats are very well looked after, and that he's been an animal lover since he was a child.

At the time of his move, said Brunette, he told his neighbour he had the cats, and asked him to let him know if they bothered the neighbour in any way.

That's the only way Brunette figures the municipality could have known he had more than one cat.

In Franklin, residents are allowed a maximum of one cat. Over the course of the last three years, Brunette received three fines — totalling $1,208 — for having too many cats and for feeding stray cats.

He never paid his fines. Beyond the fact he's on social assistance, Brunette said he found the fines ridiculous.

"I have no business paying fines for kitties," he said. "I find that really stupid."

Escorted to jail by 3 police officers

He was sentenced to 54 days in jail for not paying his fines.

He lived with his cats until November 6, when three police officers appeared at his home and transported him to Bordeaux Prison.

I was afraid for my life. These were not good guys.- Sylvain Brunette

Brunette spent four days in jail among other criminals.

"I was afraid for my life," he said. "These were not good guys."

His family raised $1,409 to pay for his bail. He plans to pay them back, slowly, over time.

Brunette is now back at home but says he will not be getting rid of his cats, who are now 16 years old.

"I did all of this because I love my cats. I don't want to get rid of them," he said.

Mayor unaware of case

When reached on the phone by CBC News, the mayor of Franklin, Suzanne Yelle Blair, said she was unaware of Brunette's case.

She said the village has had problems with stray animals in the past, and that's why the bylaw was introduced.

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