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Council’s attention turns to irresponsible pet owners

By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff

City councillors hope the development of a responsible pet ownership strategy, in conjunction with the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society, will help reduce the local cat population.

Jack Kinch, executive director of the KW Humane Society, estimates there are 20,000 to 30,000 feral cats in Kitchener-Waterloo. Every spring the shelter is flooded with more cats and kittens than they have the resources to care for. About 4,500 cats pass through the KW Humane Society per year, and 80 to 85 per cent of those are from Kitchener, Kinch said.

City staff and the Humane Society will begin work on a strategy to address irresponsible pet owners, banned breeds, disease, puppy mills, abandonment and overpopulation, among other issues. While there is currently a focus on licensing dogs, the new strategy will apply to other household pets, such as cats.

Bylaws and enforcement of dog licensing allow 30 per cent of lost dogs to be returned to their owners, while only one per cent of cats are reunited with their families.

Mayor Carl Zehr asked how long it would take for people to change their habits in a way that would affect pet overpopulation.

“From my colleagues in other communities, certainly introducing a bylaw change, such as licensing cats, does take a period of time to have that community adjust and support it in some way,” said Kinch, estimating that it would take five to 10 years to see acceptance of a new bylaw.

The Humane Society enforces animal bylaws in the City of Kitchener and runs the shelter, but also provides education programs in the hopes that new generations of pet owners will behave more responsibly.

Any significant changes could take another generation, he said.

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