By Greg Price
Taber Police Service has approached the Taber Police Commission to get feedback on its animal control program.
The lengthy document of the Community Standards Unit’s animal control programs with policy and procedure was presented to the commission at its November meeting.
“There has been some discussion at the commission and in the media about the skunk program. The onus of this program is to take polyurethane traps that are specifically designed to trap skunks, and have homeowners who have issues with these types of animals, call us and obtain the trap and we would give them instructions on how to bait and properly set the trap,” said Graham Abela, chief of the Taber Police Service. “They would sign a document saying they have possession of that trap and return it. If they catch the animal, we will give them instructions on how to release the animal safely and humanely in a specific place (at least 10 miles from your home according to the draft of policies and procedures). If there is a request for the police service to relocate the animal, we will do so, but our policy is we will charge them a fee to do that, and that fee will be $25.”
The legislation puts the onus on landowners, according to Abela, in dealing with nuisances and pests that are found on their property.
“We understand that there may be some in our community like the elderly for example who may not be able to undertake that, and obviously in those situations with our mandate, we will assist with those,” said Abela. “Also, the Community Standards Unit itself on all public lands, will deal with the trapping of animals using our skill set to deal with skunks, badgers, things like that.”
The eventual policy is a commission decision which Abela wanted feedback for in its procedures in the lengthy document in which the public will be informed by social media on the Internet.
“The policy is good and the procedures are best practice in the province. From my perspective, it’s going to be a good program,” said Abela.
Police commission member Joe Strojwas sought further clarification on the PAWS Program which may be at odds with the police service animal control program.
“It states here that feeding wildlife and cats is not encouraged, yet PAWS does this on a regular basis. I’ve found in personal experience, those feral cats wander through neighbourhoods and defecate on people’s property and it becomes a real problem,” said Strojwas.
Abela’s understanding is there is a difference between a cat colony which falls under the PAWS contract that they have with the Town of Taber, which is different than a feral cat.
“I don’t know how they differentiate between the two to be honest with you, but the trap, neuter and release program, what it does is it makes sure the cats can’t have anymore offspring,” said Abela. “As a result, the cat colonies diminish over the years. Where we experience more trouble is with individuals who have their own cats and they openly feed their cats in their backyards or we have people in the community who put out trays of food for cats and that actually attracts skunks. That’s the habitat control part that we are trying to bring into the animal control program as part of an education campaign. The only avenue we have to deal with that right now is the nuisance bylaw, not the animal control bylaw.”
According to Abela, with PAWS sensitive programming, there is approximately $15,000 spent a year on spaying and neutering cats which is about $100 per cat.
“We don’t have a facility to deal with cats currently, so the volunteer program that exists from my perspective is doing a good job,” said Abela. “Unless you want to see something different, I think the program is working OK.”
With no December Taber Police Commission meeting, the Taber Police Service Animal Control Program information has been tabled until January for the feedback from commission members.
“We are currently following the law as it stands now. You don’t actually trap in certain months just to let you know. During when animals are rearing young or when they may be hibernating, you can’t release animals into an environment from where you trap them to a place that they may suffer death through exposure. Trapping actually doesn’t occur in certain months,” said Abela. “There is some time to consider the animal control portions of procedure. But, we are following the law as it stands now.”