Guelph is a city of over 120,000 people situated in the heart of southern Ontario, a hundred kilometres west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
They have a bylaw which makes it mandatory for cat owners to license their cat and it will come into effect in January 1, 2018. I’m not sure but I think it’s probably the first city in North America to have a blanket cat licensing law.
In order to make the law palatable to cat owners, the city administrators say that they won’t enforce the law harshly. They don’t intend to punish people for not having a licence (‘license’ in North America). The law is more about education they say. However a fine can be levied if a person is in breach of the law. So expect some fines to be handed out sometime in the future in the city.
It seems that the underlying reason for this new bylaw is to increase the reuniting of lost cats with their owners. As I understand it, the authorities intend to list the cat licences on the Internet. Therefore, if a resident of Guelph sees a stray cat, with what I presume will be a tag containing the licence number, they can then contact the owner directly. This bypasses the need for scanning microchips by veterinarians or shelters.
The Guelph Humane Society hopes that the measure will increase the chances of stray cats being reunited with their owners. In 2017, 800 cats were taken to shelters but only 19% were reunited with their owners. This is very typical in fact. Dogs have a much higher chance of being reunited with their owners and cats. Most lost cats who find their way to shelters are either rehomed or euthanised.
Optimistically, the city administrators hope that the law will help educate people. Laws can educate people. They can change habits to the point where they become second nature. An example would be seat belts. At one time nobody wore them and there was a resistance to them when they became obligatory under the law. Nowadays drivers put them on without question.
The licensing program will be contracted out to a company, DocuPet. Apparently they have already issued 6000 “door knockers” (I believe that these are notices placed on front doors) which state that an unlicensed pet has been identified on the premises. I believe that they have been issued during a campaign by the authorities regarding licensing which took place in November.
The licensing fee will be $25 dollars, $20 which will go forward to offset the operating costs of the program. The remaining 5% will go towards a cat welfare fund. There is a gradual trend towards introducing controls over cat ownership in North America to reduce stray and unwanted cat numbers.