Cats on a leash? The hot topic comes before Toronto council this week


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Leashing Fluffy the cat is easier said than done in TO

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Mayor John Tory has already indicated he’s opposed to a proposed Toronto City Council bylaw amendment — which comes before them starting Tuesday — that would ban cats from going outside without a leash because he thinks it’s both a low priority and unenforceable.

Shelley Carroll, the Councillor for Ward 17-Don Valley North, proposed the bylaw amendment that would nix the exception for cats in a section of the Toronto municipal code, which states that no animal sound be allowed to roam “at large” in the city .

“I think people don’t want free-roaming cats,” Carroll said at committee almost two weeks ago.

Carroll wasn’t available for further comment this week, but Nathalie Karvonen, the executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre, already spoke at committee in favor of Carroll’s amendment.

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Karvonen says council has about 700 items before it so cat leashing might not come up until Wednesday or Thursday.

“We’re 150% for it. One (reason is) for the welfare of the cats themselves,” said Karvonen, pointing out that 90 other Canadian municipalities have a similar bylaw.

Karvonen says roaming cats are at risk of being hit by cars, attacked by other wildlife like coyotes, foxes and horned owls, more vulnerable to diseases and parasites and their life span is about a third that of an indoor one.

Further to that, Karvonen says the impact roaming cats have on wildlife is huge, pointing to a 2013 Environment Canada study that looked at songbird mortality across the country.

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“(It) concluded that free-roaming cats were the No. 1 cause of songbird mortality and outnumbered every single other cause together including glass buildings, hydro lines and habitat loss,” she said.

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“They concluded between 100 million and 300 million songbirds a year are being taken by free roaming cats.”

However, Phil Nichols, the CEO of the Toronto Humane Society, says those stats have been disputed and THS is against a ban on cats being outside without a leash.

“The accuracy of that information has never been fully established within the literature,” said Nichols pointing to a 2019 North American study about the decline of avian fauna published in Science Magazine that names habitat loss, pesticide use, insect diversity links to agricultural intensification, urbanization, and bird strikes “as far more prominent in declining avian life.

“So predation by cats is very unlikely to actually exceed all of the volume of all of those pieces.”

He adds: “Bylaws that restrict free roaming cats tend to be very costly, they’re very unlikely to be effective, and they’re against all progressive shelter medicine mandates pretty much across North America. It sounds good in theory, but how you’re going to enforce that is beyond me.”

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