Toronto City Councilors Consider Banning Allowing Cats to Roam at Large

The City of Toronto continues to review proposed changes to the Animal Bylaw (see Issue 4 Spotlights, Legislative Updates; Issue 18 Legislative Updates). On July 6th, city councilors on the Economic and Community Development Committee voted in favour of amending the bylaw to, among other things, prohibit cat owners from allowing their cats to roam freely outdoors off their property. After hearing from a variety of delegations, Ward 17 Don Valley North Councilor Shelley Carroll put forward the motion, arguing that it is safer for cats to either be kept indoors or on a leash if going outdoors. Nathalie Karvonen, a wildlife biologist and executive director of Toronto Wildlife Centre, is one of many advocates supporting the proposal. Karoven told the committee that free-roaming cats are an immense concern for wildlife in Toronto, citing an Environment Canada study that found cats across Canada kill 200 million birds annually and that the primary reason for songbird death in Canada was free-roaming cats. While Carroll’s motion did not stipulate the new rules for cats if the bylaw were to be put into effect, Karvonen recommended that cats should be allowed outdoors if they are on a leash or in an enclosure. Animal Justice Lawyer Scott Tinney attended the meeting and supported the proposal, stating that cats live longer indoors, as they are less likely to be hurt by predators and vehicles. Approximately ninety municipalities across Canada and a number throughout the Greater Toronto Area, including Newmarket, Markham, and Hamilton, have enacted similar bylaws. Toronto Mayor John Tory is skeptical about the bylaw, expressing concern that it could be impossible to enforce. The bylaw change has not yet received final approval, requiring the support of a majority of council members to go into effect. Council is scheduled to debate the anti-roaming ban proposal at its meeting on July 19th 2022. See all Committee amendments here and read more about the proposed changes here. Read more here and here.