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Municipality of Yarmouth asked to consider cat bylaw

Smokey the cat on the deck of his home in Melbourne, Yarmouth County.
Smokey the cat on the deck of his home in Melbourne, Yarmouth County.

Local resident says he loves cats but is concerned about their impact on wildlife

A Yarmouth County resident hopes to get people talking about cats, which is what prompted him to approach the Municipality of Yarmouth about perhaps developing a cat bylaw.

Precisely what the bylaw might look like – or even if there will be one – remains to be seen, but John Kearney says he at least wants to generate some discussion on the topic. A lifelong birder and cat owner, he says he is looking for something that will enhance the health and well-being of cats and mitigate the negative impact they can have on wildlife.

“I’ve known for some time that the killing of birds by cats has reached crisis proportions,” Kearney said, “and it’s getting worse.”

What made him decide to approach the municipality at this time, he said, was his experience with a cat coming onto his property, killing birds and squirrels and eventually getting into his garden.

“It was obviously a domestic cat, not a wild cat, and was killing all the birds at my bird feeder, killing all the squirrels,” he said, “and forced me to bring my feeders in, and that was before the problem with toxoplasmosis, where people were asked to bring their feeders in anyway.”

Kearney said he tried to get help but was told there wasn’t much that could be done. With the cat in question getting into his garden – and aware of the potential health risk this posed – he decided to contact his local councillor to see if he could make a presentation on the subject to Yarmouth municipal council.

Interviewed after addressing councillors at their Oct. 11 committee-of-the-whole meeting, Kearney said he isn’t suggesting any particular course of action, only that a discussion take place, one involving residents (cat owners and non-cat owners), veterinarians, animal welfare groups and the like.

Reiterating a point he made in his presentation to council, Kearney said, “I certainly am not advocating that people be forced to do anything, especially in terms of being forced to keep their cat indoors.” (Kearney has two indoor cats.)

He said a next step – if the municipality wishes to pursue the matter – could be the establishment of a steering committee to look into the possibility of a cat bylaw.

John Cunningham, the Municipality of Yarmouth’s deputy warden, who chaired Wednesday’s meeting, suggested municipal staff look to municipal units that have cat bylaws and see what they’re doing.

In his presentation, Kearney cited the Calgary model. Closer to home, he said municipal units with cat bylaws can be found in the Annapolis Valley region.

After his council presentation, Kearney touched again on his concern about cats killing birds, saying, “I’m a cat lover and a bird lover. I’m an animal lover, so I don’t want to see any harm come to cats anymore than I want to see any harm come to birds, and there is a way for the two of them to live together.”

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