Cornwall has 20% of Ontario shelter cats; cat control needed says OSPCA

OSPCA Senior Inspector Bonnie Bishop and Director of Animal Centers and Humane Programming Tonya Martin make a presentation to Cornwall council Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. The humane society is asking the city to put a bylaw in place to control the pet population -- specifically cats. The Cornwall shelter is slated to take in over 700 cats this year and has a fifth of all shelter cats in Ontario. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Officials with the local humane society say “the public is angry” with the stray and feral cat problem in the City of Cornwall which is reaching crisis levels.

OSPCA Animal Center Director Tonya Martin and Senior Inspector Bonnie Bishop presented numbers to council last night (Monday) while asking the city to put a bylaw on the books to control the cat population.

It also wants an animal management strategy.

The bylaw would look at covering a number of areas, from micro-chipping cats to spaying or neutering of animals.

The shelter for SD&G is expected to take in around 743 cats this year – just over two a day and roughly 70 per cent of those are from the city. It will also take in 72 dogs and 11 other animals.

Of those cats, nearly a third of them are sick or injured. Contrary to reports in the national media about Cornwall, only 11 per cent of the cats are considered feral.

Martin also shared an eye-popping statistic that Cornwall’s shelter accounts for 20 per cent of all stray cats taken in at shelters in Ontario. “To put that in perspective…the City of Barrie has a population of 145,000 people with a stray cat intake of 312,” she said.

Based on average pet care costs of $514 per cat, Martin said the local shelter could spend over $380,000 on cat care alone this year. That cost doesn’t include treatment for serious injury or surgery.

“This is really an unsustainable number for the shelter here locally. It’s quite a hefty burden as you can imagine,” Martin told council.

The massive number of cats hit a ceiling in July when 73 cats and kittens had to be relocated to other shelters across the province.

“In almost every instance” the Cornwall shelter is moving cats out to other shelters, Martin said. Frustrated people were also coming to the Boundary Road shelter and throwing cats in their front door and leaving, Inspector Bonnie Bishop added.

Martin added the public should be commended for helping as over 170 cats are in temporary homes because the shelter doesn’t have space with only 27 cat kennels.

Cornwall had a temporary bylaw before to control the cat population “but it was not sustainable,” Bishop said. Around 300 cats were trapped, spayed or neutered and then released. “That tells you how serious the problem is.”

While understanding the city needs to do some enforcement, Coun. Bernadette Clement was concerned about “bylaw fatigue” from the public dealing with another law.

“For me it’s a little alarming when you have the professionals sit in front of us and say that we have a crisis…it’s at a crisis level,” Coun. Maurice Dupelle added.

A report from administration on putting a comprehensive bylaw in place will be coming to a future council meeting.