Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: January 10, 2024

A wildlife biologist is warning Winnipeg officials not to allow people to feed and shelter feral cats, as the city considers bylaw changes that would make it easier for people to do so.

The city is considering amendments to its responsible pet ownership bylaw that would make it legal for residents or animal welfare organizations to trap, neuter and release feral cats, making it easier to care for roaming cats.

Currently, city rules effectively forbid that, saying that anyone who cares for a cat in their yard essentially becomes its owner — which can lead to penalties for things like having an unlicensed pet.

But at a city committee meeting Wednesday, Environment and Climate Change Canada biologist Paulson Des Brisay said some evidence suggests that programs that allow trapping, neutering and releasing feral cats don’t work.

“It fails to actually reduce feral cat populations … due to ongoing immigration from other areas, residents utilizing these locations to abandon unwanted cats and encouraging the idea that cats should be permitted to roam outdoors,” he said.

Des Brisay, who appeared on behalf of the Manitoba chapter of the Wildlife Society, said feral cats kill billions of birds, reptiles and small mammals every year, and feeding these cats doesn’t deter them.

“All it does is elevate the overall population level, but it really doesn’t do much to actually detract from the overall predation on small mammals,” he said.

“That predatory nature of this species just leads to damaging native wildlife populations.”

Des Brisay said he thinks the city should step up enforcement on the feeding and release of feral cats, and remove feral cat colonies through adoption and humane euthanasia.

“If you truly care about the welfare of cats, the proposed amendments to this bylaw will not deliver those among our community cats,” he said.

Recommendation approved

Despite Des Brisay’s concerns, the city’s community services committee accepted the recommended bylaw amendments, which will now go to the city’s executive policy committee for consideration.

Animal services general manager Leland Gordon, who wrote the report recommending changes to the bylaw, says anecdotal evidence from people who have been doing the work to trap, neuter and release feral cats shows that it does decrease populations over time.

He pointed out that other cities like Toronto already have trap, neuter and release programs for feral cats.

He said it’s a humane alternative to euthanizing these cats — something he thinks the community wouldn’t support, especially if the cats are otherwise healthy.

“Just imagine looking at a cat, it’s looking at you — it’s people’s fault those cats are out there but sorry, you have to die now,” he said.

He said he’s seen numerous posts on social media in Winnipeg community groups about how to build shelters for cats during the winter months, which shows many people don’t want feral cats to die.

“These people don’t want the cats to freeze over the winter either, so if we started saying now we have to euthanize all these cats, I don’t think that’s something that our community would support.”

In addition to the bylaw amendments, the city’s community services committee also recommended that $100,000 be earmarked in the city’s 2025 operating budget to implement an incremental spay and neuter program.