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'A huge issue': City asked to curb growing cat population in Winnipeg

Animal welfare advocates are looking for more leeway to help tackle the feral and stray cat population in Winnipeg.

A motion for changes to the pet by-law was on the table at City Hall Wednesday as part of a push to get out-of-control cat numbers in the city under control.

“It’s a huge issue with stray and feral cats,” said Shannon Nicole Towers, an animal welfare advocate.

A motion from Councillor Vivian Santos said many stray and feral cats roaming in neighbourhoods are not spayed and neutered. The motion said this can lead to an increase in the cat population and have negative impacts on residents and other wildlife.

“These include noise from male cats, cats fighting over territory or mates, urine marking," said Towers.

Right now the city does not allow residents to shelter these animals, commonly known as "community cats."

Advocates say there should be changes to the pet ownership by-law to allow for this so they can get the cats spayed or neutered and then released.

“Personally, I’ve been doing the work even without the blessing of the city in residential areas,” said Claudia Allen with Winnipeg Lost Cat Alert.

The city’s community services committee voted to have the animal services department come back with a report on options in six months.

“We could come back and say no changes needed, we can come back and say if people want to set up a couple dog houses in the back yard to house feral cats, but they’re going to (have to) do this TNR (trap-neuter-return) stuff, spay and neuter these cats and take care of them,” said Leland Gordon with Animal Services.

Committee chair John Orlikow raised concerns about what could happen if someone was permitted the option of housing the community cats in a backyard.

"The neighbourhood may not be happy about that so again I hope you’ll address that in the report as well,” said Orlikow.

The committee also asked for the report to include what a city operated stand alone spay and neuter facility would cost.

“That’s one of our dreams long term, that would really help knock down the pet population,” said Gordon.

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