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More cats finding homes thanks to new registration rules

Return rates for felines up at Dawson Creek shelter two years into cat bylaw
Wendy Davies gives treats to an unidentified cat dropped off at the shelter last week. The cat lacked an ID chip, making it less likely it will be returned to its owners.

Lost cats are being returned to their owners at a higher rate in Dawson Creek two years after the city passed a sweeping bylaw regulating cat ownership.

According to South Peace SCPA Manager Wendy Davies, return rates of missing cats have shot up from almost zero since city council brought in a bylaw requiring cat licensing in the city of Dawson Creek.

Before the licensing bylaw, which incentivizes spay and neuter and encourages owners to ID their cats with a chip or tattoo, just one in ten lost cats brought to the SPCA were being returned to their owners.  

“We did see what we expected to see,” Davies said at a city council meeting Jan. 23. “We’ve seen a significant increase in the return to owner rate, from 10 per cent to 27 per cent last year, and we saw a reduction in length of stay (at the shelter).”

The rate remains significantly lower than the city’s return rates for dogs, which already had licensing in place. Seventy-eight per cent of dogs are returned to their owners, usually within 18 days.

Davies pitched cat-related updates to the city’s animal control bylaw in early 2015. The measures were aimed in part at controlling Dawson Creek’s large feral cat population.  

Since then, lost cats are spending less time at the Dawson Creek shelter, with average stays dropping from just over 52 days to 34.

“We’re heading in the right direction, and that overall will reduce costs for us for the care of these animals,” Davies said.

Those stays have also come down due to an agreement with Central Mountain Air to fly cats to shelters in the Lower Mainland.

Davies added she’s been contacted by officials in Fort St. John interested in implementing new cat regulations.

She added the shelter has hired an enforcement officer and will be stepping up fines for unregistered cats in the coming months.