February 18, 2021

Equality for Cats and Dogs in a Little Ontario Town

In late January, Prescott, Ontario Town Council voted to make cats equal to dogs. The way they have done it is perhaps not the way that you think. You see, council updated the town’s 1994 animal control bylaw and now, owners can be charged $110 if their dog or cat is running at large and owners also could be fined if either species of pet is not licensed or not wearing its tag. The poop-and-scoop law will also apply to cats as well as dogs under the new bylaw. Owners can face a $210 fine if they don’t pick up after their animal on other people’s property or in public spaces.

Personally, I am cheering, though I know many people will not agree. Some will argue that cats need to run free. I am told that up until the 1950s, there was a widespread belief that dogs needed to run free, as, the thinking went, dogs are descended from wolves. Leashing of dogs was made mandatory for rabies control and protection of livestock, generally not for the welfare of dogs. Today, a loose dog could prompt dozens of people to come together, sometimes risking danger to themselves, to bring him to safety. Not so for a loose cat.

In the 1980s onward, I recall the controversies about poop and scoop laws for dogs. These are now ubiquitous and the vast majority of people pick up after their dogs. I think they do because it is no longer socially acceptable to leave your dog’s droppings behind, rather than fear of a fine. Yet, still cats are allowed to roam the neighbourhood, defecating in children’s sandboxes and neighbour’s flowerbeds. Those same cats are at risk for poisoning, shooting or any other terrible harm that a fed-up neighbour may inflict upon them.

Our evolution in thinking has helped dogs become safer in our community. It has helped dogs bond more closely with their human families and this has made many of them ascend to full-blown beloved family members. While the literature and our own OHS statistics suggest cats are catching up, they still trail their canine brothers in many measures — certainly in legislative protection.

But not in Prescott Ontario. 

Bruce Roney
President & CEO