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Trapped Castlegar cats raise concerns

A city bylaw which allows Castlegar residents to trap roaming cats has raised some concern, but a local enforcement officer says it
A city bylaw which allows Castlegar residents to trap roaming cats has raised some concern, but a local enforcement officer says it's an effective tool and most of the trapped animals are either claimed by their owners or adopted out to loving homes.
— image credit: Illustrative photo by Kim Magi

The recent trapping of several cats in Castlegar has one area resident questioning the city’s cat nuisance bylaw, but bylaw officer Nicole White says unusual circumstances had her picking up more cats than usual in February.

Three cats were picked up between Feb. 17 and 24 on 6th Avenue but White said they all belong to the same couple who illegally own seven cats.

City residents are allowed to own three cats and three dogs unless they obtain a special permit to keep more animals.

Another cat was picked up two weeks ago, but White said it was in such poor condition —including burned ears and gaping wounds — that it had to be put down.

"If the cat is in that bad of shape, whoever is the owner of the cat shouldn't have the cat," White said, adding that she cried when she saw how injured the feline was.

"It's heartbreaking to have to do it; it's the part of the job that I hate to do."

Kim Mullaney was in Kootenay Critters when the suffering cat was brought in. She said she had no idea the downtown pet store also serves as Castlegar’s de facto pound and was surprised to learn that animals are kept there for a week and, if not claimed by the owner, are either adopted out or, in extreme cases, euthanized.

Mullaney said she was also surprised to learn that cats can legally be trapped by anyone in the city — not just bylaw officers.

According to Bylaw 932, residents are allowed to trap cats that are at large (meaning “on a highway or public place, or on the lands or premises of any person, other than the owner, without the consent, express or implied, of that person.”) However, they must obtain the trap from city hall and then must call city hall to have the animal picked up.

Mullaney thinks the bylaw goes too far.

"Somebody can be living in Castlegar, open their door, the cat could run out and if it doesn't come right back people can trap it," she said.

Although the bylaw states cats will only be picked up from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., White said she’s picked up cats outside of those hours. If she isn’t able to, though, the person who traps the cat is responsible for its well-being.

"Since I've been in the job, and I started in December 2007, I've collected 11 cats,” White said. "When you figure out of those 11, three have been euthanized, that's pretty good odds."

Since the bylaw was implemented in 2001, 26 cats have been picked up.

Those that have been euthanized have been “absolutely crazy,” White said.

“I've had to wear long gloves, one of the veterinary assistants had to go on [worker’s compensation] because the cat literally jumped out of the cage and hung onto her face,” White said. “We only euthanize if the cat is absolutely spun off the wall, you know, the type that's hanging off the ceiling waiting for you to walk under it to claw you."

Prior to February’s euthanization, the last time a cat was put down was in 2008.

"Otherwise, every cat we've taken has been adopted," White said, if the owner fails to claim the cat.

White said cats that have been picked up and taken to Kootenay Critters are posted on KBS Radio’s Pet Patrol, and are announced three times a day and posted on their website.

"We do put them in and post them on [Pet Patrol]; we haven't posted one in a long time because we haven't had one in a long time,” White said.

Mullaney doesn’t think the cats should be taken to a pet store, and instead should be taken to the SPCA.

"The really strange part is, they should be going to the shelter in Trail,” she said.

But White said Trail’s resources are already stretched thin and they said they couldn’t take on the extra cats from Castlegar.

"It's not a city choice,” White said. “If we had our choice we would much rather the animals go to the SPCA."

But adoptions have been very successful, she said.

"We've had a great response. Kootenay Critters has a waiting list for when cats come in and they try to pair them up [with the right owner.]”

For a list of lost and found animals on Pet Patrol, visit http://www.kbsradio.ca/PetPatrol/home.aspx

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