Animal rescue groups in Moncton are calling on city council to reconsider amendments to its animal control bylaw.
With a few exceptions, proposed changes include swapping out the word animal for the word dog. This is raising red flags for those who worry it will bring an end to services for cats.
People for Animal Wellbeing (PAW), formerly known as the Greater Moncton SPCA, said it received 253 cat-related complaints last year that were dealt with by animal control. These included picking up injured cats and setting traps for strays.
Heather Smith, operations manager for the group, said bylaw changes will have major implications for non-profit animal rescue organizations.
"The city is definitely taking their animal control responsibility and placing it directly on charities and volunteers," said Smith. "There's only so much time to give and so many donation dollars to go around. So trying to provide a 24/7 service is going to be a struggle."
The proposed bylaw passed its first reading on Aug. 16 with Councillor Shawn Crossman casting the only vote against it.
Conrad Landry, Moncton's director of community safety, said the animal control bylaw was never meant to include cats.
"Cats were not removed, they were never in," he said. "It's an animal control bylaw but it was intended for dogs. What we did was clarified and put dogs."
Regardless, he said council hears the concerns of local cat rescue groups and may consider making modifications to the proposed bylaw.
"We are going to look into it and do some research … and we are going to make some recommendations and suggestions and see where council wants to go," he said.
'It's not enough'
The Moncton chapter of CARMA, Cat Rescue Maritimes, will be making a presentation to city council when it next meets on Sept. 6. The non-profit's interim leader, Amber MacDonald, said she hopes the presentation will educate councillors on the desperate need for services to continue.
"There are six rescues here in Moncton, and it's not enough," she said. "We are overcapacity and had to close our intake because we just don't have any more room," MacDonald said.
She said turning people away is never easy, but the non-profit is overwhelmed with the number of cats and kittens in its care. It has more than 80 right now.
MacDonald said non-profit rescue groups won't be able to fill the gap if animal control services come to an end for cats.
"If they aren't able to help, I don't know what that will look like," she said.