Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed a lack of support Friday for a plan set to be considered by city council that could see cats banned from roaming freely outdoors within city limits.
On Wednesday, a motion, moved by Councillor for Ward 17 – Don Valley North Shelley Carroll, posed an amendment to a staff-proposed bylaw change that would scrub an exception for cats in section 349-6D of the Toronto municipal code, which states that no animal sound be allowed to roam “at large” in the city.
The motion is rooted in concern that cats can be a danger to local ecosystems, hunting bird and rodent populations, and are themselves at risk of being hit by vehicles or attacked by wildlife while roaming.
“I’m moving [this motion] today because, truly I think people don’t want free-roaming cats,” Carroll said. “It is horrendously traumatic when you find a cat that has met with misfortune.”
While speaking to reporters at a federal housing announcement in Toronto Friday, Tory said the issue was “not the highest priority, by any means.”
“As mayor, I want to be dealing with housing, with transit, with vaccinations. I want to be dealing with community safety,” he said.
Tory also questioned the feasibility of the plan. “I don’t believe in passing laws that can’t be enforced,” he said.
“I just don’t think we need our licensing people, who are very busy dealing with genuine safety issues, running around and chasing Fluffy the cat.”
He said he doesn’t plan to vote in favour of passing the bylaw at city council.
Carleton Grant, executive director of the licensing and standards division at the city, echoed that statement. When speaking to council Wednesday, he called the plan “impossible” and “problematic.”
Andrew Holland, spokesperson for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, told CTV News Toronto Thursday domestic cats are considered one of the 100 most invasive species in the world.
“After habitat loss, cats are the number one human-caused reason for the loss of birds,” Holland said in a statement. “It is estimated that over 2.6 billion birds are lost annually in Canada and the U.S. from being killed by cats.”
While the motion to review a bylaw change was passed this week, the bylaw itself hasn’t received final approval. It was not included in Wednesday’s staff report featuring potential rule changes to the chapter of the city’s municipal code dealing with animals and would still need the majority support of council before it could go into effect.
Tory said he doesn’t know the statistics of bird deaths caused by felines in Toronto.
Council is scheduled to debate the issue in two weeks.