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Friday, February 22, 2008

Man feeding strays could face fines from SPCA

Don Grant says the local SPCA is supposed to prevent cruelty to animals, not promote it.

"I don't think they do - they are the biggest offender of their own law," said Grant, who's facing a $150 fine for caring for stray cats near his Lynnwood Drive apartment.

He said the four cats, which are about a year old, would starve to death without his help.

"They wouldn't survive," said the 63-year-old, who has three cats of his own.

"In the nice weather, I hardly see them. They're out catching mice. But there's nothing for them to eat at this time of year. I can't turn my back on these animals and let them starve to death."

Grant has been feeding the cats - whose mother was hit by a car - since last summer. He puts out food on the balcony of his ground-floor apartment and has also made them a cozy enclosure out of an old ottoman, to protect them from the bitter cold. Some of his neighbours have helped out by providing blankets and a heating pad. "Everybody's got dogs or cats in this building," he said. "We're all animal lovers."

But, on Jan. 26, Grant was warned by an SPCA officer that he could be fined for harbouring the stray cats.

Shelter manager Robin Kuchma said the SPCA - which enforces the city's animal control bylaws - gets involved if there's a complaint from neighbours.

"Nobody's going to condemn somebody for feeding a stray but if you're providing food on a regular basis, plus shelter, you're providing a permanent home and that attracts more strays.

"People's intentions are good - they're trying to help animals in need. But, we have to be respectful of other people."

Grant said the SPCA paid him a visit last month after receiving a complaint that he had too many cats in his home. At that time, he was looking after his late mother's elderly cat, which put him over the city limit of three cats per household.

Grant agreed to find his mother's cat a new home but, during the conversation, he also mentioned that he was feeding the strays.

"I walked right into it."

Grant said he has no intention of allowing the stray cats to starve but he won't take them to the SPCA either.

"They're overrun with them," he said."All they're going to do is kill them."

Instead, he plans to find the cats new homes, something he's done with other strays.

"I told (the SPCA officer) I'd be moving them by May."

Kuchma said there are probably thousands of stray cats in the city. And, if they're not controlled, they continue to reproduce at an alarming rate.

"One female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years," she said. "It's a huge problem."

Because Brantford doesn't have a cat control bylaw, the SPCA is not funded to pick up stray cats. But it does accept about 2,000 cats every year that are taken to the Mohawk Street shelter.

Sadly, only about three per cent are claimed by their owners, even though Kuchma estimates up to 80 per cent were once somebody's pet. "You can pick them up and cuddle them. You can't do that with a cat that was born in the wild."

While the SPCA tries to find homes for the cats, only 40 per cent are adopted. The rest are euthanized.

But Kuchma said that's a more humane end than letting the cats die from starvation or disease in the wild. "It's heartbreaking, when we see an animal like that, sick and unable to eat. They're just skin and bones."

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