A recent incident in which our cat was impounded has brought to light an issue that I have with the town of Milton’s Animal Control By-law. Milton has a very restrictive By-law. I would like to point out that there can be a middle ground that doesn’t have to make the choice between ‘indoor’ or ‘outdoor’ cats a dichotomous choice and the latter unquestionably wrong and illegal in all cases.
Having had our cat for a decade now, Buddy has been taken in and raised as an outdoor cat. He can often be found outside lazing in the sun and pouncing playfully out of our bushes. He will stroll along side neighbourhood kids on their way to school in hopes of getting a little love and many passers-by stop to pet him or call him over. I believe that cats possess a certain innate quality and need for freedom and independence that sets them apart from other pets, like dogs. Some residents may not agree with me there, they may believe that it’s in the best interest for a cat to be kept indoors and as a law-abiding citizen; it is my duty as a cat owner to do so without question. That’s not really the issue here though. I don’t wish to claim that outdoors is right and indoors is wrong, end of story. I simply want to draw attention to the By-law which states quite strongly that indoors is right and outdoors is wrong, no question. Surrounding townships have fair legislation that reflects both the pet owner’s choices in how they raise their cat and any given person’s right for that cat to not be on their property if they don’t wish it there. I’d like to see Milton’s legislation look a little more like those of Oakville, Mississauga, and Guelph.
In Milton, any cat who is not leashed or tethered while outside is in violation of Milton’s Animal Control By-law 90-2004 which states that “Cat owners must ensure that their pets do not run at large” which means “to be in any public place or on private property without the consent of the property owner”. This definition includes public sidewalks. This legislation clearly implies that outdoor cats are not welcomed within the township. You'll notice in the paragraph above, I refered to "fair" legislation. I use that term in the truest meaning of the word, which according to Merriam Webster's deffinition means "an elimination of one's own feelings, prejudices, and desires so as to achieve a proper balance of conflicting interests". As such, fair legislation would acknowledge that people have different points of views on how a cat aught to be kept as pet and not dictate that all cats are to be kept indoors or on a lead.
Surrounding townships don’t have such a blanketing and restrictive Animal Control By-law, including Oakville where the Humane Society itself is located. Oakville’s own By-law reads like that found in Mississauga which states that “A cat is permitted to be at large but an Animal Services Officer may take possession of and impound any cat found at large if: a) in the opinion of the Animal Services Officer, the cat is in distress, injured, or otherwise in need of immediate veterinary treatment; or b) the owner of the property on which the cat is found to be at large takes control of the cat and asks the Animal Services Officer to take possession of the cat.” Guelph’s Animal Control By-law is limited solely to dogs not being allowed at large. Returning though, to the former legislation that reflects what I’d like Milton to adopt, one would have to agree that option b would be best used after a more neighbourly approach had already been attempted if someone had an issue with a specific cat being at large on their property. In order to actually resolve any such issues, the Humane Society would also have to disclose the nature of the complaint at hand too, which they don’t. As a person claiming their cat, you are notified only that they were in violation of the By-law, not if anyone had any specific issue with your pet. Without any usable information made available to the owners, any situations that do arise in such a case are un-likely to change in anyone’s favour with the system working the way that it does.
There are discrepancies in prices too. One is not fined for their cats being at large (which also means that you cannot contest the matter like you can with other By-law infractions - a second concern that I have with the current By-law), what you are paying for are the redemption fees paid directly to the Humane Society. It costs a Milton resident double that which it does an Oakville resident to get their cat back- which would almost make sense if it were the original impound fee that was increased to account for the larger distance travelled, but that’s not where the increase is reflected, it’s in the housing of the cat per day.
All in all, I think the By-law is unnecessarily restrictive to the choices of pet owners. It can become more fitting for all by changing the following 3 things:
1.empowering both pet owners and potentially concerned neighbours alike through adopting legislation that closer resembles those found in Oakville, Mississauga, or Guelph
2.a legal process through which one can contest the impounding of one’s animal (which would need to reflect the 5 day time limit you have to claim your pet and pay the fees- guilty or not) or at the very least a policy of disclosing applicable issues upon claiming of your cat, so that you can prevent the issue from re-occurring (this need not be a disclosure of personal information, but of the issue at hand).
3.a consistency in redemption fees between townships for services rendered
If you own a cat and make the ‘outdoor’ choice or can see how those who don’t make the same choice that you do still deserve some reasonable options, please contact your local Licensing Officer *****at 150 Mary St. *******
P.S. I'm obviously not a writer, feel free to correct any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes or simply suggest a more effective way of saying the same (or better) thing.
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!