‘Ain’tgoing to be no tomcatting around Blaine’

Published on Thu, Apr 6, 2006 by eg Olson

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‘Ain’t going to be no tomcatting around Blaine’

By Meg Olson

Blaine is considering requiring cat owners to get licenses for their pets.

“It is a serious issue and one that’s very difficult to address,” said Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic at the March 27 city council meeting. “At least as contentious as immigration issues,” said Blaine police chief Mike Haslip.

Haslip said that following ongoing citizen complaints the city was continuing to look at an amendment to the city’s animal control regulation that would make licensing for cats mandatory, as it is now for dogs.

According to Haslip, the Whatcom Humane Society, which provides animal control for Sumas, Blaine and Bellingham, impounds approximately 150 animals per year in Blaine, but while 80 percent of dogs are reunited with their owners, only one percent of cats are.
“The humane society has no way of identifying the owner,” he said.
The humane society also impounds more cats. “There are 60 percent more cats impounded and complained about than dogs per year,” he said. Complaints range from the impact of hunting cats on songbirds to cats using a neighbor’s flower bed as a litter box.

“Over the years the dog owners with their license fees have subsidized animal control for cats,” Haslip said. He said he would like to bring a draft ordinance before council for public comment. “It would be prudent to have one or two community meetings,” he said. “I don’t look at this as an enforcement issue but as a community-care issue.”
There were challenges to a cat license ordinance, Haslip added. ”Other communities have tried it and it hasn’t been successful. We can learn from their experiences,” he said. Some people would like to go farther than a registration process for cats, such as an indoor-only policy for the animals, but Haslip said that was not his recommendation.
“How will it make a difference for songbirds, in reality, if cats are licensed?” asked council member Bonnie Onyon.
Haslip said he wasn’t adequately informed about the scientific data regarding the impact of predation by domestic housecats, and the possibly more complex interaction between cats, birds, and other bird predators.

In 1999 researchers in the Journal of Ecology found that “eradication of introduced superpredators, such as feral domestic cats, is not always the best solution to protect endemic prey when introduced mesopredators, such as rats, are also present.”

In a study of existing literature for the Stray Pet Advocacy, Christine L. O’Keefe concluded that, “there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife, except perhaps for fragile populations in isolated or fragmented ecosystems.”

Those favoring stronger limits on domestic cats cite the work of University of Wisconsin researcher Dr. Stanley Temple who estimated in 1993 that domestic and feral cats kill 39 million birds annually in that state.

Temple and fellow researchers John Coleman and Scott Craven wrote that “in order to have and care for our pets – and still protect our native wildlife – we must make an effort to limit in a humane manner the adverse effects free-ranging cats can have on wildlife.”

They recommend keeping domestic cats indoors and taking measures to limit wild cat populations, such as controlling reproduction and euthanizing unwanted cats.