BARRHEAD - No leash, no problem.
In an ideal world, Town of Barrhead Coun. Rod Klumph said he would like to see the community's cats be able to roam free without the constraints of a leash when they venture off their owner's property.
This is why he voted against passing the initial readings of a proposed update of the town's Animal Control Bylaw during the March 23 council meeting.
For a bylaw to reach the final reading in a single session, under the Municipal Government Act (MGA), all previous readings must be unanimous.
The bylaw is now expected to go before council for the third and final reading on April 13.
Chief administrative officer Edward LeBlanc brought the bylaw for council's consideration because of what he termed a "housekeeping item."
He said community peace officer (CPO) Brandon Johnson, with the help of parks and recreation director Shallon Touet, reviewed the bylaw and determined some of its language and clauses needed to be deleted or changed to accommodate the new dog park.
In addition to including the dog park and updating some of the bylaw's wording, it also increases several fines. For licenced and unlicenced dogs and cats found to be at large fines increases from $100 and $75 to $150 and $100, respectively. The fine for a dangerous dog also increases to $400 from $250.
Klumph said he agreed with everything in the bylaw except for the provision that did not allow cats to be at large.
"On a farm, a cat is an animal with a job. Its role is to keep the rodents down," he said. "By keeping our cats inside and on leashes, the number of rodents in our community is increasing."
Klumph then went on to describe several problems that mice specifically create for residents.
"They make nests inside your vehicle ... I've seen mice crawling up the outside of my house looking for a hole to get inside," he said. "They create huge messes, and they carry disease. They poop and pee and you can die from what they leave behind."
Klumph specifically alluded to the hantavirus.
"I would rather have cat poop in my flower bed than a mouse making a mess somewhere else, so let's free the cats and kill those mice," he said.
Klumph added the requirement to have cats on leashes should be from the bylaw as the CPO was not enforcing it, probably he said because he "knows what valuable service they provide for the community."
Mayor Dave McKenzie interjected, saying the lack of enforcement had more to do with identifying the animal and its owner.
"It comes down to whether it is a good law," Klumph replied. "It is a bad law because it is not enforceable. As a result, the public gets a poor impression of us, the lawmakers, but more importantly, it's bad because the mice are getting away.”
Coun. Ty Assaf said while he understands Klumph’s frustration with mice, many residents are equally frustrated with the wandering cats and the damage they cause to their gardens.
He referred to the number of residents who showed up in council chambers to voice their approval of including cats in the Animal Control Bylaw.
"The minute we take [the cat-at-large clause] out of the bylaw, we are going to have a bunch of angry people saying they don't want those cats walking around coming into their gardens, destroying something that they have put a lot of effort and often money creating," Assaf said.
Klumph also asked if the cat-at-large portion could be removed, saying he supported the other aspects of the bylaw. The bylaw limits the number of cats and dogs a person can have at a residence and also requires them to be licenced.
Legislative services and development director Cheryl Callihoo said without the clause, it would give the CPO fewer tools to enforce "cat hoarding".
"If we remove [the cats-at-large] clause, we might as well take them out of the bylaw," she said.
Coun. Dausen Kluin ended the discussion by moving the first reading of the bylaw.