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  • Madeline Kerr

Advo-cats launch pet-ition to save furry ferals

Everyone knows a cat has nine lives, but few may be aware that an unspayed female cat can have around 12 kittens in a single year.


This is part of the reason why some residents of La Pêche say they worry that if nothing is done to address the growing number of feral cats in the municipality, the issue could get out of hand, causing both cats and other local wildlife to seriously suffer.


A petition put forward by La Pêche resident Natasha Sabolotny is asking residents to show their support for a humane solution to the problem. At the time of publication, Sabolotny’s petition on Change.org has garnered 3,915 signatures.


In part, the petition states, “It’s time to demand that the municipality of La Pêche take responsibility for the ethical treatment of all pets.”


Part of the problem, Sabolotny’s petition explains, is the fact that the company employed by the municipality to deal with animal control does not provide services for stray cats. Starting in 2021, the municipality of La Pêche ended its former agreement with the SPCA and signed a two-year deal with a local company Anitek.

Unlike the SPCA, Anitek’s services are mostly limited to stray dogs, meaning there is little help available when it comes to stray cats.


Anitek’s services also come with a larger price tag: while the municipality spent a little more than $31,800 in 2019 to work with the SPCA, this year its contract with Anitek costs $41,900. La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux justified the expense of Anitek’s services over SPCA saying that the number of dogs registered in the municipality has doubled thanks to Anitek’s services – namely his digital dog tag registrar, which helps offset the cost.


On Nov. 7, a group of residents, including Sabolotny, met with Lamoureux to discuss their concerns. Wakefield resident Justine Nolan attended the meeting, where she explained to the mayor the scope of the feral cat problem and put forward possible solutions to resolve it.


Nolan said that she and others believe there are close to 200 cats living in a colony near Burnt Hill in Edelweiss and another 35 cats at a colony in Lac-des-Loups. Feral cats are by nature skittish and hard to count, making it difficult to get exact numbers, she said, adding that there are likely to be several other pockets of feral cats throughout the municipality.


Part of the problem is that feral cats poach birds and other wildlife, which can have a negative impact on local ecosystems, Nolan explained. Unvaccinated cats can also spread disease to domesticated pets they come in contact with.


“Cruelty towards animals is also one of the biggest concerns,” Nolan said. “People put [kittens] in bags, suffocate them, drown them…the population getting out of control sadly means that [this kind of] behaviour is more likely.”


One solution, residents like Nolan and Sabolotny say, would be to implement a Trap, Neuter, Release and Maintain program (TNRM) through any area clinics offering neutering, ideally with funding from the municipality.


Another solution is to attract more veterinarians to the municipality, according to the group. Currently there is only one vet, Dr. Penny Wootton, working at the Wakefield veterinary clinic, who also works in Chelsea, meaning few can access vet services in the area.


Yet another possible solution, according to Nolan, includes discounts for La Pêche residents who want to spay or neuter a pet.


Lamoureux has said he recognizes that cats are underserved by the current arrangement. He told the Low Down the municipality has been in touch with the SPCA to enlist their help dealing with feral cats in the region but has been told that due to lack of human resources and limited space in their facility, they are unable to provide support.


“I am periodically in touch with the director of the SPCA to see if the situation evolves,” he added.


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