toronto cat bylaw leash

Toronto may soon force you to keep your cat on a leash outside

Toronto City Council is mulling over the idea of proposing a bylaw change, potentially forcing pet owners to leash their cat when exploring the great outdoors.

The motion, discussed on July 6, aims to protect cats from being victims of car accidents and being killed by other animals- but also to protect  ecosystems and animals like songbirds. 

The bylaw has been proposed to state that "no owner of an animal other than a pigeon shall cause or permit the animal to be at large in the city."

According to one speaker at the council meeting, Nathalie Karvonen from the Toronto Wildlife Centre, birds in Toronto are especially at risk of death at the paws of feral and domesticated cats.

She pointed to a 2013 Environment Canada study that found cats were responsible for the death of two million birds per year nationally, which is higher than all other causes of songbird deaths combined.

And it's not just birds that are dying, Kavonen said rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and other small mammals are often killed by felines.

Glenn De Baeremaeker, former city council, put it bluntly; "If you love cats, you shouldn’t allow them to go outside where they'll be hit by cars or killed by coyote or killed by poison that a neighbour leaves out for them or attacked by a dog or another cat or a fox. If you love your cat, keep Fluffy indoors and let them be the beautiful cat they are."

Other guest speakers who shared their reasons for favouring the anti-roaming bylaw included Autumn Jordan from Nature Canada and Michael Mesure from FLAP Canada.

The motion isn't to prohibit cats from going outside, but requiring owners to leash them up when doing so.

It was moved by Ward 17 Councillor-Don Valley North Shelley Carroll, who said said she truly doesn't believe people in the city want free-roaming cats.

"It is horrendous and dramatic when you find a cat that has met with misfortunate because you let them roam at night but unfortunately it it's too late by then," she said.

It is unclear how the logistics of the bylaw change would work and if bylaw officers would be enforcing it. 

But don't run out and buy leashes just yet - the proposition hasn't been fully-approved and is set to be debated in two weeks.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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