By: Korie Marshall
The local animal welfare group is asking the Valemount community to speak up and let friends and neighbours know that violence towards animals is not ok here.
Chris Dolbec of the Robson Valley Spay and Neuter Society says the group is responding in part to a recent incident in which a pet cat was caught in a conibear trap in a neighbour’s yard, but she says it is not about this single incident.
“Sadly this is not an isolated incident,” says Dolbec. She says it is part of a culture of quiet acceptance; people who don’t want to live in a community that condones senseless violence towards animals, including their neighbour’s loved pets, need to speak up.
A conibear trap is normally used on a trap line, and is designed to kill by snapping shut on the animal’s head or neck, and applying a large amount of pressure.
The society is aware of a number of recent incidents of pets that have been shot in their own yards, trapped in conibear and other painful traps, and intentionally poisoned by antifreeze.
“There are other ways of deterring animals, why so aggressive and violent an act?” asks Dolbec. “Why create an antagonistic situation with your neighbours?”
The society acknowledges that owners have a responsibility for their pets, and does not condone animals at large. Dolbec says they sympathize with residents who are frustrated with animals in their yard, or running loose.
“The safest place for your cat is indoors, but we know that is not always realistic,” says Dolbec. But she says senseless violence should never be a resort, and there are many other ways to deal with the situation. “Displaying violence towards animals is never a solution. It is a cowardly way to respond to a situation.”
Dolbec says motion sprinklers work really well to keep cats out of your yard, or a good tall fence. The sprinklers may be something the society can look into helping with funding, if there is a need for it in the community.
At least one resident sees the need. She doesn’t want her name used because she doesn’t want to point fingers at her neighbours, but says her whole life has been affected because she is not able to use the garden in her own yard. She says the neighbour’s cats dig up her plants and defecate in the soil, and as a senior, with very little income and health problems, it has affected her wellbeing. She does not condone violence, would never hurt an animal, and says it is the owner’s fault, not the pet’s, but she knows the frustration of having to deal with other people’s pets.
“People seem to be responsible, but blind when it comes to cats,” she says. “It is not civilized to think you can let your cat run free and destroy your neighbour’s stuff. Why do people think that is ok?”
The cat caught in the recent conibear incident was originally rescued by the society, and re-homed after being neutered, as are a number of pets in the immediate area. The cat was reportedly caught by the shoulder in a conibear trap, and was hissing and yeowling when the property owner found it. It was reportedly released outside of the village boundaries, and has not been found since.
Dolbec says even if the property owner had called the society at that point, they would have taken the cat to a veterinarian, no questions asked. But by dumping the cat, volunteers spend time and resources trying to find and catch the cat, which now likely has not survived.
“That is someone’s beloved pet,” says Dolbec. “This is callousness, not just to the cat, but to the neighbours who the pet belongs to.”
“What if it had been a kid in that yard?” Dolbec says, and other residents on a Facebook discussion asked the same thing. “What kind of community do you want to live in?”
Amy Morris, Policy and Outreach Officer for the BC SPCA, says using conibear traps or antifreeze to kill and poison cats and other domesticated animals is an offence under the Criminal Code.
“Anyone who ‘wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird’ is liable to imprisonment for up to five years and a fine up to $10,000,” says Morris.
Valemount’s bylaw officer Dean Schneider says it is also an offense to trap within 200 meters of a dwelling unless it is a live trap, according to the provincial trapping regulations.
Dolbec says a cat colony the society has been working on for some time was likely the result of people who live-caught their neighbours cats and “released” them in certain spots around the community.
Abandonment is also an offense, says Morris. “If someone takes custody of a domestic animal and then abandons it in distress, or willfully neglects it or fails to provide adequate care for it, they are liable to imprisonment of up to two years and a $5,000 fine.”
“The BC SPCA encourages residents who witness these acts to report such incidents to the Cruelty Hotline at 1-855-622-7722,” says Morris. “Photographic evidence is also a helpful tool to document these incidents of cruelty.”
Morris says this recent incident has been reported to them and is part of an ongoing investigation, so they cannot comment on it. But she says the challenge that law enforcement sometimes faces is pursuing charges where there is no evidence. But as a whole, “the more people reach out to RCMP and the cruelty hotline about animal welfare related issues, the more you will see positive change in attitudes, recognizing that animals are sentient beings and experience pain.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says a new regulation was passed this spring that restricts the size of conibear traps used within municipal boundaries throughout the province. It limits conibear- style traps to models 220 or smaller, which means the jaw spread is seven inches or less. The new regulation is intended to reduce the potential for pets to be harmed by traps set for furbearers or nuisance animals. But a trapping license is required, even to set a trap in your own yard for fur bearing animals. Under no circumstances can a trap be set for domestic animals, says the ministry.
Dolbec says violence against pets is not something that “used to happen” in this community, it is still happening now. “Please use the resources available, talk to your neighbours. And owners – take responsibility for your pets.” Putting tags on them so people know who they are and how to get in touch with you is a great first step for owners, and that’s the aim of one project the society is working on right now.
“There are better options than resorting to cruelty,” says the society. If you see it happening, report it (anonymously if you want) to the cruelty hotline; tell the Spay and Neuter Society, the local RCMP, and bylaw officer; take photos.
“We ask all caring members to stand up, speak up, and use your voice for animal welfare.”
The Robson Valley Spay and Neuter Society was formed relatively recently to promote responsible pet ownership, and to provide education and financial assistance to control cat populations in the Robson Valley through spay and neutering. The group is non-profit, with limited funding, and made up of just a few very dedicated volunteers.
Tips for responsible cat owners
– if your neighbour approaches you, try to listen to their problem without getting defensive.
-Research ways to keep your cat(s) close to your home. There are many options, and you can find info online.
– Make sure your cats have tags. Spay or neuter them.
– Keep your cats indoors for more or all of the day.
– Offer to pay for a motion-detecting ultrasonic device for your neighbour (or another deterrent)
– Add plastic garden fencing to your regular fence, but have it sloped at 45 degrees so the cats can’t jump over.
– Outdoor cats, even otherwise well cared-for cats, face an extraordinary array of dangers. The Humane Society, says free-roaming cats typically live less than 5 years; cats kept only indoors often live to 17+.
– Outdoor cats aren’t just a nuisance to neighbours. They kill an estimated 1-4 billion birds just in the U.S. each year, including endangered species.
Tips for frustrated neighbours
– Try to address the problem with your neighbour when you are calm. Tell them specifically how it affects you and make an empathetic statement about their cat ex. “I know it’s hard to control a cat once it’s outside but…” then offer a few possible solutions. Expect resistance.
– Try non-violent methods of deterring the cat. Some have found that motion-sensor sprinklers ($85), motion-sensor ultrasonic devices ($50) and commercial cat repellant ($15) are very effective.
– Hose areas with cat pee to remove the alluring scent.
– Report the cat to Village bylaw enforcement. They may assist in humanely trapping persistent cats.
– Spread coffee grounds on the garden soil
– Place chicken wire just under the soil. It will make it uncomfortable for cats to dig and scratch there.
– Add wire to your fence or build a higher fence
– Cats don’t like the scent of citrus or Lamb’s Ear plants. Place these items around the problem areas as well as close to any entry points the cats take to your yard.
– Lay strips of painter’s tape in your yard (the cat should be able to pull it off itself)
– Bury a balloon in an area where the cat likes to dig. When it digs, the balloon will pop, scaring it away.