Burnaby wants cats fixed before sale

Pre-fixed or fixing prepaid?

Either way, the sterilization of cats will have to be provided for before the animals are  sold in Burnaby pet stores under a city proposal.

The city staff recommendation, which was to be raised at Monday's council meeting, comes after Burnaby council adopted its first-ever set of regulations for pet stores in the city last November.

Some councillors had suggested addressing the problem of an overpopulation of feral cats by requiring cats be sterilized before being sold in stores. However, said a city staff report, while Burnaby veterinarian hospitals recommended sterilization only take place when cats are five to six months old, the BCSPCA routinely has the procedure performed on cats as young as eight weeks of age.

The proposal has been designed to fit both approaches—the sterilization of cats would either have to be done before the animal is sold or the procedure pre-purchased to be done at a later date through a voucher system.

"Business owners would be responsible for funding the program and the voucher provided to the consumer would be required to cover 100 per cent of the procedure costs," the report said. "Pet store operators could look to partner with local veterinarians in an effort to reduce costs and provide customer convenience."

Any pet store failing to provide such vouchers before selling an unsterilized cat would be subject to a $500 fine.

"It's better to have it than not to have it, absolutely," said Kathy Powelson, executive director of the Burnaby-based Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, of the proposal. "But it's not enough. To me, it's condoning the sale of pets in pet stores."

Paws for Hope had called for a ban on the sale of live animals in pet stores, out of  concern that such animals often come from "mills" where they are bred for profit under substandard and unhealthy conditions, often ending up with health and behavioral issues as a result. Burnaby changed its animal control bylaw to regulate pet stores but didn't go so far as to ban animal sales.

"It addresses the overpopulation problem, sort of," Powelson said. "It's not addressing the fact that many of these animals that are purchased in stores are abandoned."

She said the proposal does not protect cats bought in pet stores or affect what ultimately happens to them.

"Every single shelter in British Columbia is full of cats. So to sell a cat in a pet store is so completely unnecessary."

What's really needed are provincial regulations on the issue, Powelson said.

The proposal is "not going to stop people buying a cat in Richmond and dumping it off in Burnaby because in Richmond you can still buy cats and they don't have to be sterilized."

City staff also looked into whether or not it could limit the sale of animals in pet stores to those born and raised in B.C., in response to concerns about the practices of multinational corporations which supply such stores.

It received a legal opinion, that such a requirement would contravene international trade agreement provisions, the report said, making such a move not viable as part of Burnaby's animal control bylaw.

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