By Kevin J. Sabo
For Ponoka News
A local animal rescue is raising the alarm after being overrun with stray cats.
According to Martine Huijssoon of Old MacDonald Kennels, the animal rescue east of Ponoka and an animal control operator, the phone has been ringing non-stop. Between the kennels and fosters, they are nearly at capacity.
“We’re trying to help as much as we can with cats, but we are running out of space,” said Huijssoon, adding the rescue is in the process of building more space.
Part of the issue, Huijssoon says, comes from the Town of Ponoka.
“Ponoka doesn’t have a cat bylaw in place, which means that cats are free to roam in the town. Every cat that comes in [to the shelter] is basically at our own expense.”
Ponoka does have a bylaw in place when it comes to dogs, and when Huijssoon is asked to pick them up she is paid for 72-hours of care for the animal. With no corresponding cat bylaw in place, any cats she picks up she has to care for at her own expense.
The shelter offers pet boarding as well, which helps pay for the costs of the rescue, but due to the current world situation, fewer people are traveling and Huijssoon says she is getting stretched thin.
“It’s very hard to identify a stray over a cat that’s owned because there are no rules that the cats have to stay home,” said Huijssoon, adding the shelter has upwards of 40 cats with more calls every day.
The shelter has capacity for around 20 cats. The rest are being cared for by foster families.
When asked about the animal control bylaw, Town of Ponoka communications manager Sandra Smith confirmed a new bylaw is in the works and will be presented to council soon.
Town council has given the bylaw its first reading already.
“Following a public consultation process last winter, the town received extensive public input on the proposed bylaw. We have carefully reviewed that input. Based on the input received, the town is drafting new changes to the proposed bylaw which will be brought to council for their consideration in the coming weeks,” she said.
The new bylaw would require the licensing of dogs and cats within the municipality.
Huijssoon says most of the stray animals in her care do end up going home. For those that don’t, Huijssoon keeps them in her care for 14 days, before they are vet checked, spayed or neutered, and then made available for adoption.