Animal Advocates Watchdog

Calgary cat licensing bylaw success

Calgary Hearld

Cat licensing law cutting down on strays
30,000 pets registered in city since Jan. 1

Suzanne Goldman
Calgary Herald

Monday, August 13, 2007

A city bylaw requiring pet owners to license their cats has resulted in the registration of 30,000 felines since being introduced Jan. 1.

As a result of the licensing rule and complementary education campaign, the number of cats impounded by the city from January to July has dropped from 500 last year to 330 this year -- a 35 per cent reduction, said Greg Steinraths, manager of strategic services for animal bylaw.

"It's been very successful," he said. "Other cities that have been doing this for years have not achieved this kind of success."

Edmonton began mandatory cat licensing in July 2000 but has since registered just 40,000 four-legged furballs in a city that has a cat population nearing 90,000.

"(The bylaw) has been partially successful," said David Leeb, director of animals services for the city of Edmonton. "But we certainly have a lot more cats than that in the city."

An advertising campaign launched in March to encourage cat owners to license their animals resulted in 9,000 owners purchasing the registration, said Leeb.

Nevertheless, the rate of impounded cats being returned to their owners remains low, at 12 per cent, he said.

Results have been impressive for Calgary facilities -- 50 per cent of captured cats are now returned to their owners, compared with just 35 per cent before the licensing law. But the numbers have been slow to improve at the larger shelters, such as the Calgary Humane Society.

"We're not seeing a huge reduction in cats yet," said Cheryl Wallach, manager of communications for the society. "It's been small so far. We know it's going to take some time."

Wallach said the discrepancy results from sheer volume, since the humane society takes in 7,000 cats each year -- nearly 6,000 more than the city, which operates only a temporary shelter.

But it is a program the humane society endorses nevertheless, she said, because it provides a way of identifying cats so they can be returned to their owners.

And that's exactly why Glynis Baker and her nine-year-old daughter, Keeley Haight, opted to buy a licence for their purebred Siberian cat, Aladdin. In fact, Aladdin was the first cat in Calgary to be licenced through the new program.

"I'm a responsible pet owner and wanted to showcase the fact that for a small fee, it's quite a peace of mind knowing my cat will hopefully come home if he gets lost," said Baker.

It's an attitude Steinraths hopes others will adopt -- even owners who don't allow their cats to roam outdoors.

"A lot of people say that," said Steinraths. "But cats get out."

Nearly 103,000 of the furry critters are prowling around Calgary, said Steinraths, and people are becoming increasingly responsible about keeping track of their cats since the city began emphasizing the educational aspect of the bylaw.

The program became mandatory Jan. 1, but city officials encouraged the purchase of licences well before that date.

Although bylaw officers won't begin issuing the $250 fine for an unlicensed cat until January 2008, owners can still be fined $25 for an unlicensed cat found off-property.

Cat licences range in price from $10 to $35, depending on age and whether the feline has been spayed or neutered.