Cornwall cracking down on feline freedom

The City of Cornwall is considering significant bylaw changes to tackle what it says is a "crisis" with its growing cat population.

SPCA officials picked up more than 700 cats in Cornwall in 2017

A cat on Bergin Avenue in Cornwall on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (Joe Lofaro/CBC)

The City of Cornwall is considering a significant bylaw change to tackle what it says is a "crisis" with its growing cat population. 

On Monday, the city tabled an interim report at a council meeting laying out a radical plan to curb the feral felines from streets such as Bergin Avenue. 

The quiet street near the Cornwall Civic Complex has been overrun with strays who roam free and wreak havoc on people's properties, according to residents.

In one day alone last July, the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry branch of the OSPCA picked up dozens of cats on the residential street. 

Lorrie Lapensee said she has to spray her front yard with Pine-Sol just to get rid of the stench of cat urine outside her home. 

"You'll smell it terribly if it rains. It's horrible," she told CBC News Tuesday, minutes before two strays darted alongside her home. 

You feed it, you own it

The proposed changes call for all cats to be licensed with the city and to be spayed or neutered within five years.

Residents would also want to think twice about feeding feral cats, since they would then be responsible for them.

"Feeding a stray cat would bestow ownership and accountability to register, vaccinate, spay/neuter and so on," according to the report tabled at Monday's meeting. 

The bylaw doesn't end there.

Cats would have to be confined indoors, unless they leave the home on a leash, a tether, or are kept in an enclosed area.

Owners who violate the bylaw could face a fine. 

Here are some of the kittens the Ontario SPCA rounded up in Cornwall, Ont., in July, 2017. (Ontario SPCA)

"I agree with that, because I feel if they do that you're not going to have the stray and feral cats roaming the streets," Lapensee said.

"Then, you're going to have responsible cat owners. Just like we have responsible dog owners. We're not allowed to let [dogs] go free."

There will also be limits to how many cats a resident could own — two if you live in an apartment or up to four if you live in a detached or semi-detached home. 

746 stray cats picked up in 2017

Chris Rogers, the chief building official and bylaw enforcement supervisor with the City of Cornwall, presented the bold strategy to councillors on Monday. 

He told CBC Radio's All in a Day on Tuesday the feral cat problem is more serious in Cornwall than other cities in Ontario. 

He said Markham, which has seven times the population of Cornwall, had only 217 feral cats picked up by SPCA officials last year.

In Barrie, with a population of 147,000, there were 360. 

SPCA officials in Cornwall — a city with a population of just 47,000 — had 746 stray cats picked up in 2017. 

"These numbers would suggest that we do in fact have a bit of a crisis on our hands," Rogers said. 

Lisa Martin is a cat owner and believes the proposals are a step in the right direction. 

"I understand what the city's trying to do. It does make sense because some people get carried away," she said.

"They feed them and then just let them do their thing and don't get them fixed."

The city plans to consult with the public on the proposed bylaw and present a final report to council at a later date.