• Jules-Pierre Malartre

Options explored for dealing with West Island stray cat population


PHOTO COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK/PAVEL VAKHRUSHEV

A number of cat rescue advocates attended the November 2 Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough meeting to discuss the plight of abandoned cats and to convince the borough to avail itself of humane methods of dealing with strays rather than using for-profit animal control services with a high kill ratio.

Councillor Yves Gignac fielded questions from attending animal advocates. According to Gignac's source, TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) of 75 per cent of stray cats is required to control overpopulation. He cited a figure of 20,000 stray cats in the West Island, while the estimate supplied by local TNR advocate Amélie-Maude Lemire puts that number at only 10,000 in the immediate borough. Gignac said it would cost the borough $1.5 million to sterilize 75 per cent of those 20,000 cats (at a cost of $100 per cat). Gignac also addressed the issue of euthanasia, "This administration will not euthanize cats, and will not award contracts to do that. It won't happen on my watch. Guaranteed.

"We believe a TNR program, accompanied by an awareness and education program aimed toward pet owners to increase sterilization and reduce abandonment, is the only efficient and humane solution to the proliferation of stray cats," said Claudia Mendoza of Bien-être animal Montréal (BEAM).

The province of Quebec is notorious for lagging behind in adopting humane solutions to animal abandonment, although an increasing number of municipalities have enacted new by-laws that provide animals with better protection. The introduction of Bill 54 also aims to improve animal conditions at the provincial level. A number of municipalities deal with humane organizations, such as the SPCA, to help control and rehome stray cats instead of resorting to mass euthanasia.

Montreal SPCA's Anita Kapuscinska maintains a TNRM program (TNR supplemented with a ‘Maintain’ element, where feral cats are also provided with some limited food and shelter) is the most viable and humane way of treating feral felines. She feels that municipalities working with the SPCA have become increasingly proactive in the eight years she’s worked there.

The SPCA does not have the capacity to support all boroughs on its territory, however. While some feel that non-profit organizations can not compete with for-profit pounds for municipal animal control contracts (pounds are cheaper because they do not provide veterinary and long-term care for the animals they capture, according to Rémi Brazeau of the West Island SPCA), Kapuscinska said it’s important for municipalities to realize that costs of dealing with non-profits organizations who rehome and TNR strays will decrease over the long term. TNR programs have proven highly effective in controlling overpopulation in a number of areas. "Vermont now has a waiting list for adopting cats," Lemire said.

Animal control services have not eliminated - or reduced - the problem, since overpopulation of stray animals has only increased. The source cause of this issue is not the animals, but the general attitude of residents toward their pets. A percentage of Quebecers still tend to think of their pets as disposable goods. While some people do bring their unwanted pets to a shelter or pound, a number of owners simply abandon their pets. The problem is exacerbated by residents who do not have their pets sterilized.

Animal rescue organizations spearhead TNR/TNRM programs, whereby stray cats that cannot be rehomed are caught, neutered and then released to live out their lives as community cats in our localities. A number of residents have taken upon themselves to care for those animals, providing them with food and outdoor shelter. While an increasing number of municipalities have responded agreeably to TNR and community cat colony initiatives, a number still prefer to resort to outdated animal control services.

"Most people have no idea this program is in place. I would not be aware of its existence was I not involved in cat rescue," said Dr. Ursula Lord, founder of Cause 4 Paws, an animal rescue organisation active in the area, referring to the Dollard des Ormeaux TNR program. "This program is being tragically underused." Lord suggests this program could be expanded for use in Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

Over the past three years, Steri-Animal and BEAM have helped sterilize hundreds of cats in the West-Island area, thanks to the cooperation of Animal 911 Veterinary Hospital that offers reduced rates to rescue groups and residents.

You can find out more about humane solutions to animal abandonment and adopting abandoned cats by visiting Steri-Animal's website (steri-animal.org) and Cause 4 Paws' website (cause4pawsrescue.ca). Both organizations are actively looking for volunteers.

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