Les Leyne: Baby steps on the way back to normal

Baby steps to normal

Getting back to normal after 17 months of varying pandemic restrictions amounts to a giant leap for most people.

Just walking a grocery aisle whichever direction you want will feel unusual, let alone hanging out in crowds and dining out wherever you want.

So B.C. is trying to get there in baby steps, which is why no one is hollering “let freedom ring” this morning. The gradual four-step plan is probably as much to help people get used to acting normally again as it is to buy time to gauge any upticks in COVID-19 metrics.

The biggest change as B.C. enters “step two” today is the lifting of the hard ban on non-essential travel within B.C. The B.C. Ferries website collapsed within minutes of that announcement due to an instant surge in bookings.

That’s a strong clue about what broader travel will look like for the next year or more. Pent-up demand is likely going to crush every sector of that industry.

The other specific changes are relatively minor. The new limit for most public and or outdoor gatherings is 50. Bars can stay open until midnight. Banquet halls and theatres can step up or resume operations.

But as Monday’s advisory notes: “All other capacity limits and guidelines stay in place” unless noted otherwise. That includes the advisory against inter-provincial travel and a five-person limit on personal indoor gatherings.

Still, moving into “step two” is good news. The government was bent on capitalizing on it, so it took no fewer than four cabinet ministers, including Premier John Horgan, to announce the incremental change.

He said the government is taking the tentative steps in a way that “brings everybody along.”

“There are still people that are anxious about reopening; they’re concerned about the impact of too fast a return to normal,” he said.

Step two is tentative based on monitoring the case count, hospitalizations and immunization rate, all of which are trending well. The immunization rate stands at 76 per cent of all adults, but the percentage of adults who have had the required two doses is just over 10 per cent.

Any sudden surge in cases of the more virulent strains of COVID-19 could bend the trend in the wrong direction and change the restart plans.

It’s worth remembering the step two regime is essentially what was in place last summer, before subsequent surges of the virus derailed that first restart plan.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry looked ahead at the cruise ship issue, about which Horgan has been criticized for neglecting and misreading.

The ships could eventually start sailing past B.C. ports after the U.S. dropped the need for a Canadian stop because the ports are closed to them until February, 2022.

Henry is part of a Canada-U.S. group discussing when the ships can return to B.C. She said it depends on strict guidance from the U.S. Centre for Disease Control.

“We do know that shared accommodations and particularly elderly people, which we tend to see among people who take cruises — it can be a risky environment. We’ve seen that in long-term care homes.”

Horgan said a lot of staff work is going on between B.C. and Ottawa about the ships and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is convening premiers Thursday to talk about how to re-open the borders.

Opposition B.C. Liberals later attacked his handling of the cruise ship controversy. During several heated exchanges in the legislature the Opposition said when they filed federal freedom of information requests for any B.C. correspondence about the issue, they got back nothing.

“There isn’t a single record of any contact between his office, his government and those federal authorities that he insists are responsible for this,” said Liberal MLA Mike de Jong.

Horgan said: “I’m not dismissive of the cruise ship industry or the challenge, I’m dismissive of the official Opposition. There’s a big difference.”

Facing demands to do something, he said it is out of his control. “There are no cruise ships going up and down the coast of North America today, and there won’t be for the foreseeable future.”

Les Leyne is a columnist for the Victoria Times Colonist

Op-ed: Action needed on ambulance shortage

Action, not rhetoric needed

B.C. paramedics and dispatchers are the pride of our province — frontline workers who dedicate their lives to keeping British Columbians safe and healthy. However, while we grapple with two of the worst health crises in our history, we are seeing a lack of government support pushing our ambulance service to the brink.

Over the past four years, our ambulance service has had to cope with growing challenges without the resources needed to keep up. Despite plenty of political rhetoric from the NDP government, their continued mismanagement of the service has left members feeling betrayed, as paramedics are stripped of their guaranteed callout wages and the ability to job-share, among other issues. Imagine being a single parent and having your job-share taken from you without notice, something that you rely on for child care and for work-life balance.

While government messaging hails dozens of new paramedic positions throughout the province, unfortunately these investments are not all the NDP makes them out to be. The full-time labour force remains understaffed and overworked, while casual employees are left to chaotically fill the gaps.

Daily, dozens of ambulances sit idle because BC Ambulance can’t find staff. According to Tony Clifford, the provincial president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., on an average shift 20 to 25 per cent of ambulances are not staffed.

We have a problem.

The NDP’s failed leadership has taken its toll on the paramedics responding to the overdose crisis. Every year the opioid crisis is tragically getting worse and the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed an already strained BC Ambulance Service beyond the breaking point. Although we couldn’t predict the pandemic, the Premier had years to improve supports for paramedics struggling from overdose-related pressures but our government failed to act.

The result? Paramedic burnout, increased stress, dismal retention, and added suffering.

Ultimately, it’s the citizens of British Columbia who are left waiting longer for lifesaving care. In their time of need, our emergency health services can’t be where they are needed most.

When asked about this directly in Question Period in the B.C. Legislature this week, the NDP downplayed the problem. The Health Minister even seemed to characterize the growing issue as a blip caused by an unusually high number of calls. And while government has said it is aware of some of the challenges facing paramedics, it has offered little in the way of concrete solutions.

The same is true at our dispatch centres. BC Ambulance Dispatchers have equally struggled during these dual health crises. The pressure they face in understaffed dispatch centres, responsible for sending help out across massive provincial geographies, has led to the same challenges our paramedics face.

As the situation worsens across the province, it becomes clear that John Horgan and the NDP have failed the BC Ambulance Service, its employees and by extension, British Columbians.

We are calling on the Premier for real action. Rather than expressing empty political rhetoric, John Horgan needs to step up and provide adequate support to BC Ambulance. The citizens of our province depend and rely on our ambulance service to support them in their most difficult times of need, and it’s time for government to take action and ensure paramedics have the resources to answer the call.

Renee Merrifield
BC Liberal Health Critic and MLA for Kelowna-Mission

Poll finds widespread dissatisfaction with Canadian justice system

Unsatisfied with justice

Even in a year that has focused primarily on mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic, certain aspects of life in Canada must continue without restrictions. One of them is the judicial branch.

Recent events may have changed the way we look at justice in the country. In April 2020, Nova Scotians had to deal with one of the worst attacks in Canadian history. British Columbia has recently been the scene of a seemingly incessant turf war between gangs. We have also seen a disturbing amount of reports of anti-Asian racism in some municipalities.

Research Co. and Glacier Media asked Canadians about the current state of affairs, and the results are not particularly splendid. Across the country, just under three in 10 Canadians (29%) rate the justice system with a grade of 8, 9 or 10 – including 32% of men and 31% of those aged 18 to 34.

The proportion of Canadians who feel the justice system is excellent or very good is highest in British Columbia (35%), followed by Alberta (34%), Ontario (32%), Quebec (29%) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (28%). The view is shared by just one out of four residents of Atlantic Canada (24%).

Our personal experience shapes our perception of the justice system as impartial. It is impossible to assume that all parties that have their day in court will be satisfied with the outcome, but some components fare worse than others.

More than two in five Canadians (42%) deem their last interaction with the justice system involving with traffic and bylaw issues, such as disputing a driving ticket or a parking violation, as fair, while 20% consider it unfair.

The numbers are similar for the last interaction related to small claims court, which includes unpaid accounts for goods or services sold. Canadians are more likely to say they were treated fairly (36%) than unfairly (19%).

When it comes to family court – entailing divorce, custody arrangements and spousal support – a third of Canadians (35%) say the system was fair, while 22% consider it unfair. There is a slight gender gap here, with 38% of women saying family court was fair to them, a view shared by 33% of men.

The situation changes dramatically when Canadians are asked to rate the criminal justice system. There is no longer a double-digit lead for the concept of impartiality. While 31% of respondents say their last interaction was fair, 26% consider it unfair – a sizable shift from what is observed on the other three categories.

Two groups are more likely to express dissatisfaction with their personal experience in criminal court: those aged 18 to 34 (32%) and those who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2019 federal election (31%).

Part of the problem with the dissatisfaction voiced on criminal matters is the assessment of an overly lenient judiciary. We learned earlier this year that 50% of Canadians would be willing to bring back the death penalty for cases of murder, including 57% of men and 57% of Canadians aged 55 and over.

Across the country, 61% of Canadians believe that when it comes to criminal cases, the justice system is too soft on offenders – a proportion that rises to 64% among men, 71% among Canadians aged 55 and over and 70% among British Columbians.

Some respondents shared why they have such bad memories of their last interaction with the justice system. “The mediation process was designed to force a solution quickly,” wrote a man from Alberta who felt he was treated unfairly at small claims court. “The company that wronged me got off easy.”

Canadians understand that these experiences are not unique. Almost four in five (78%) think the justice system needs more resources and that it takes too long to get cases dealt with.

Some dismay is saved for the people who are in charge of ensuring fairness. “The judge didn't even understand the case,” shared a man in Atlantic Canada. “The lawyer acting on behalf of the defendant lied in court and the judge overlooked it,” wrote a woman in Saskatchewan.

For a woman in Ontario who was dissatisfied with her experience in family court, the issue was monetary. “If I could have afforded a lawyer, the outcome would have been different,” she told us. This was echoed by the sentiments of a man in Quebec: “Justice is for the rich.” Across the country, seven in 10 respondents (71%) think the outcome of cases depends heavily on how good your lawyer is.

Still, the most poignant account came from a man in British Columbia who offered a summation of his disappointment with being treated unfairly in court: “I’m First Nations.” A majority of Canadians (57%) think the justice system has not done enough to address bias against Indigenous Canadians.

The survey outlines a country that does not have confidence in the ability of the courts to behave in an impartial manner. At this stage, sizable proportions of Canadians perceive the justice system as lenient, elitist, understaffed and prejudiced.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from June 3 to June 5, 2021, among 1,000 Canadian adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Christopher Derickson: Dark History or Present Reality

History or present reality

Since the news broke about the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Residential School, I have been bombarded by texts and phone calls. Friends, colleagues, and political leaders have been asking, “How are you, and your community doing?” “How can we support you?”.

How am I? I’m angry, indignant, and perplexed as to why a country like ours; a modern day free, liberal, and democratic society tolerates the ongoing atrocious treatment of Indigenous peoples. I’m also surprised that this news came as a shock.

How is my community doing? We are heavy with grief, anger, rage, resentment, and indignation. We are trying to find a way to reconcile our existence as syilx people within a country that continues to ignore us. We are trying to find a way to heal, but the tether of historic unaddressed atrocities continues to haunt us.

So let me ask, how are you? How did you feel when you heard the news, what went through your mind? Do you, like our Prime Minister, believe that the discovery of 215 dead Indigenous children is “a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s HISTORY?” Or have you finally come to realize that this is the PRESENT situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada? Are you finally waking up to realize that our free and democratic country still has racist legislation, policies, and political actors who continue to add pages to this “dark chapter”, unwilling to turn the page?

From what I can tell, Canadians are trying to find ways to move on from this dark chapter. I’ve been told that “how to be an Indigenous ally” is trending on the socials. But for how long? How long will this headline last? CBC’s The National did a segment on the ‘story’, and will likely do a few more. After all, they are our publicly-funded broadcaster and have a civic duty to do so. But, how long will this story last? How long will it take for the media and Canadians to predictably move on to a new headline?

Residential Schools are just one section of this chapter. Other sections we continue to write include the preventable deaths of Indigenous people in hospitals, child care, and RCMP custody. Let’s not forget the sections on the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women, deplorable incarceration rates, unlivable conditions on reserves, underfunded educational systems, and the ongoing and continued alienation of our traditional lands. I could go on. But I think you get the point. Most media outlets and Canadians give these egregious stories a few seconds of attention and move on. Meanwhile, my people continue to live with the daily reality of ‘Canada’s Apartheid’ (https://www.lapsuslima.com/canadas-apartheid/). Go read it. This is not history. It is our collective present-day reality.

We have known about the unreported graves. They have been documented in the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report and Calls to Action. Maybe it’s time you read it (www.trc.ca). My people, the syilx /Okanagan People, have known about these things for years. They pervade and still haunt my community every day. I feel for the survivors. They heard about this the same way we all did; through a press release. That moment, on May 28th will forever be etched in the collective memory of this country. I hope that the survivors and their families find a way through this. I hope we, Canadians, find a way through this.

Or will we fall in back into apathy and wait until the next news cycle and big headline to get another moment of public aghast hoping that one day things will change? I’m not an expert in social movements or mass societal change, but I’m pretty sure there is a better way.

So what can we do?

Let’s start with simply being human. Start with empathy. Take a moment to reflect on our present-day realities. Take a moment to remember the 215 children that never made it home. Allow yourself to feel what we feel; anger, indignation, and a deep uncommunicable empty sadness. Then, when you are ready, let’s turn the page. It’s time to heal. It’s time to change Canada.

This is our moment. It’s time to write a new chapter, nay, a whole new volume entitled Truth and Reconciliation. This is our country, we as individual Canadians hold the collective pen and have at our door step the opportunity to write a new narrative for future Canadians and Indigenous peoples. We must also demand accountability and reparations. We must also face the uncomfortable truths that have enabled centuries of genocide. In this new chapter, the humane treatment of Indigenous peoples is no longer a partisan issue. The mistreatment of Indigenous people is no longer an issue for debate. It is an issue we need to address. It’s time for governments, institutions, corporations, and individuals to act on the 94 Calls to Action from the TRC.

I believe that we can and must do better. We must build a better Canada, one that makes room for Indigenous peoples to BE Indigenous. We don’t want or need your permission to be Cree or syilx. You just need to finally acknowledge that we are here and we are not going to retreat into assimilation. We are going to take our rightful place in a diverse and rich Canada full of Indigenous languages, cultures, customs, traditions, and ways of being. A Canada that simply and honourably accepts that long before contact we were here. We will always be here.

Christopher Derickson is currently serving as chief for Westbank First Nation, one of the 17 communities affected by the discovery of 215 children buried in unmarked graves.

Is your cat outside killing wildlife right now?

Is your cat killing wildlife?

What a lovely sight! Look at Patches as she heads out for her morning jaunt in the fields near her home. How cute is she as she tiptoes through the dew-drenched grass, trying her best to keep her paws dry?

Millions of cats do exactly this every day, and the outcome is always devastating for billions of wild animals and sometimes for the cat as well.

Each year about five per cent of Canadian birds are killed by cats – 269 million birds out of an estimated population of 10 billion, to be exact.

Free-roaming cats live an average of five years, compared to 17 years for indoor cats. During those five years, they can do irreparable damage to local wildlife.

Plus, many predators out there would happily snap up an unwary cat for dinner. Coyotes, in particular, seem to hunt cats in urban areas since cats are plentiful and generally less wary than most wild prey.

Why would you let your cat kill other animals?

But what of the animals your sweet little kitten hunts?

Surprisingly, I have several friends who are devout naturalists but willingly let their cats out, knowing the harm they do. This always puzzles me: If you cherish wildlife, why would you let your cat roam and kill wild things unnecessarily?

There are two distinct camps when it comes to this issue:

  • those who let their cats out because “cats need to roam and exercise their hunting instincts;."
  • those who know it’s harmful and wrong and want to protect wildlife.

Around the world, this debate rages and has done so for many decades.

In 1916, in his report to the Canadian Commission of Conservation, W.E. Saunders of the McIlwraith Ornithological Club of London, Ont., and a pioneer on bird studies, wrote:

“The cat, I think, comes fairly under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission. I wish it would appoint me Cat Ranger. If that were done, I can assure you the number of cats would suffer a very serious diminution every year because, as you know, every cat spends most of its time in an effort to kill. It kills not only the mice but every bird it can possibly catch and, as I look at it, each insectivorous bird killed by a cat is worth more than the cat itself. I have proved that there are some uses for cats. Buried under apple trees I have eaten them as apples; buried under rose bushes I have picked them in the form of roses. That is a very satisfactory way of disposing of cats.”

Many studies have been undertaken worldwide recently trying to determine the impact the estimated 600 million cats have on wildlife. This number includes feral (i.e. born in the wild), escaped or released and now living wild, and those cats kept as pets but permitted to be free-roaming.

Domestic cats are a threat to biodiversity

Domestic cats are recognized as a threat to global biodiversity and are known to have significantly contributed to the extinction of 33 species worldwide. The impacts are so great that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists domestic cats as one of the world’s worst non-native invasive species.

Outside North America, the number of kills is immense. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 27 million birds are killed annually in Great Britain by the 7.2 million cats residents keep as pets. Another study, conducted by Michael Woods, Robbie A. McDonald and Stephen Harris, estimates that the impacts in Great Britain may be as high as 150 million birds.

In Switzerland, it’s estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 birds are killed annually by cats.

In Australia, the problem is equally severe and based on the estimated 14.6 million cats (free-roaming and feral) found there, numbers are again staggering. The 2.6 million free-roaming Australian pet cats alone take an estimated 3.8 million animals annually, with about 25 per cent of those being birds.

Add the superior hunting feral cats to the mix (estimated to be up to three times as efficient as free-roaming cats) and the numbers likely approach 41 to 54 million animals, including about 10 to 13 million birds.

In 1996, C.R. Dickman presented a report to the Australian Nature Conservation Agency and the Institute of Wildlife Research in Sydney, Australia, regarding the Stephens Island wren. This flightless, nocturnal wren from New Zealand went extinct about 1900. It was never observed alive in the wild. Sadly, most of the known museum specimens were collected by a single cat.

An unscientific New Zealand study reported that an estimated 1.4 million free-roaming cats kill 19 million animals annually, including approximately 1.1 million birds.

In North America, recent studies concerning the impact of the estimated 30 to 80 million feral and 33.6 to 58.8 million free-roaming cats support these figures. Studies by various scientists estimate the average kill rate for each free-roaming cat in the United States to be between four and 54 birds a year, depending on location and degree of urbanization.

A landmark article by Scott Loss, Tom Will and Peter Marra, in Nature Communications (2013) details the problem. “The Impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife in the United States” created a media frenzy as hundreds of articles ensued summarizing and critiquing their data. In their paper, the authors state in part:

“We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3 to 4.0 billion birds and 6.3 to 22.3 billion mammals annually. Our findings suggest that free-ranging [and unowned] cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for U.S. birds and mammals.”

Unowned cats include farm/barn cats, strays fed by humans but not granted access to habitation, cats in subsidized colonies, and feral cats. Sixty-nine per cent of the mortality is attributed to unowned cats, showing their superior prowess and efficiency as hunters.

Their study also showed that between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals are killed annually by cats. Free-roaming pet cats were responsible for 221 million to 1.7 billion bird deaths and 512 million to 2.8 billion mammalian deaths. They conclude that between 228 and 871 million reptiles and 86 and 320 million amphibians could be killed by cats in the contiguous United States each year.

Other studies support these disturbing conclusions. The authors of a Wisconsin study report that 39 million birds are killed annually in that state alone. In a Michigan study, 800 to 3,100 cats killed between 16,000 and 47,000 birds during one breeding season. A wedge-tailed shearwater colony in Hawaii exhibited total reproductive failure, with almost all the adult shearwaters at this site were apparently killed by cats.

Canadian cats kill up to 348 million birds a year

In Canada, similar studies done by Environment Canada conclude that cats appear to kill as many birds as all other anthropogenic (i.e. human-induced) impacts combined. Feral and pet cats are believed to kill more than 100 million birds a year in Canada, with an estimated 60 per cent of those killed by feral cats.

Collisions with electricity lines have been identified as the second-largest human-caused source of bird mortality in Canada, with 10 to 41 million birds killed annually. Collisions with buildings are responsible for the death of an estimated 16 to 42 million birds annually, and approximately 13.8 million birds are killed in collisions with vehicles.

A 2013 study by Peter Blancher entitled “Estimated number of birds killed by house cats (Felis catus) in Canada,” published in Avian Conservation and Ecology, concludes that cats are estimated to kill between 105 and 348 million birds a year in Canada, with the majority likely killed by feral cats. This conclusion was based on an estimated 8.5 million pet cats and 1.4 to 4.2 million feral cats.

These estimates suggest that between two and seven per cent of all the birds in southern Canada are killed by cats every year. They reference previous Canadian studies where B.B. Guthrie, in 2009, estimated that 165 million birds were killed annually. Erica Dunn and Diane Tessaglia, in the Journal of Field Ornithology (1994), attributed 29 per cent of bird kills to cats. The Rithet’s Bog Conservation Society reported in 2011 that 22 per cent of all attacks on song sparrows were generated by cats.

Guthrie went on to analyze which species and families might be more susceptible to cat predation. He concluded that insular species ( those living on islands and those living in artificially isolated and/or fragmented habitats such as those surrounded by subdivisions) were most prone. In contrast, interior forest species were less likely to be predated. Free-roaming pet cats were more likely to take small songbirds at feeders, while feral cats generally took larger birds.

Twenty-three species at risk in Canada, according to a 2012 report from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), are among the potentially vulnerable species identified. Among the listed ground-nesting species, three of 11 prairie-nesting species and three of four grass and scrub-nesting species are at risk from cat predation.

Study after study reaches the same conclusion, whether it’s about grey catbirds suffering 79 per cent mortality primarily due to cats, seabird populations being wiped out on sub-Antarctic islands, or California quail and thrashers extirpated in a park where cats hunted. Cats were choosing to kill birds and native mammals but avoided non-native mammals (e.g. rats) such that the number of rats in the cat-infested area was nine times higher than in the cat-free zone.

Native predators losing food sources

Why should we care?

Beyond the obvious devastating impacts on wild populations of birds, mammals and herptiles (amphibians and reptiles), there’s a secondary impact on avian and mammalian predators. If the cats kill most of the prey, what’s left for the native predators?

Studies in Maryland showed that the loss of native prey to cats (e.g. chipmunks) resulted in Cooper’s hawks choosing alternate prey and, subsequently, having a much reduced reproductive success rate.

Native predators tend to be in balance with their prey – fewer prey species lead to fewer predators. But this isn’t the case with cats since pets have it all – food, shelter and protection. The pressures that control natural predators don’t affect them the same way and their populations burgeon unchecked.

Unlike natural predators, cats typically kill prey whether they intend to eat it or not, further decimating wild prey populations.

Cats tend to be active in daylight hours when birds are least suspecting since their natural predators are mostly nocturnal. This again artificially raises the kill rate and hunting success of the cats.

And cats are the only predators that typically stalk healthy adult birds by choice rather than taking fledglings and weakened birds.

Cats can become disease carriers

Another emerging issue is also of concern. Free-roaming cats, domestic and feral, act as reservoirs and vectors for many diseases and parasites that may jeopardize wildlife, such as feline leukemia and feline parvovirus.

Most importantly, cats play an integral role in the life cycle of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii, where the cat is a definitive host. T. gondii has infected more than 50 bird species worldwide. The parasite is shed in the feces of infected cats and a broad range of animals (including humans) may act as intermediate hosts and may develop clinical disease as a result of this infection.

Add to this that cats appear to be selectively avoiding rats as prey, should we not be more concerned about vector spread diseases as rat populations increase due to reduced predator pressure?

How do we tackle the problem?

Well, what can be done?

The trap-neuter-release or trap-neuter-return (TNR) movement is well-funded and entrenched as part of the solution for cat problems. Essentially it opposes the use of euthanasia to control cat populations while promoting feeding and sterilization programs.

But evidence suggests TNR isn’t the solution as the sterilization efforts can never be widespread enough to offset the breeding success of non-neutered cats. TNR often leads to perpetual colony maintenance, huge costs, magnified volunteer efforts and even an increase in cat populations as the cats are well-fed and protected by the cat guardians, as witnessed by one program in Hawaii that grew from about 100 to over 1,000 cats.

Many veterinary and animal rights and welfare professionals deem TNR to be inhumane, since it may encourage pet abandonment, as owners of unwanted pets are assured their cat will be well taken care of when released. Clearly, the rights of the wild animals are never factored in when TNR is implemented as hundreds of thousands of wild animals die when these cats persist.

Dog owners are more environmentally conscious of the impacts of their pets, not necessarily due to any awareness of the impacts of dogs at large, but more likely since municipalities aggressively enforce stoop-and-scoop, leash and dogs-at-large bylaws.

That’s not to say cat owners condone the killing of wildlife – likely, they just never think about it.

All dogs are vaccinated for rabies but is this true of cats? Many are, but likely most, particularly feral cats, aren’t.

So what should you do?

Each person has to weigh the facts and decide for themselves. For me, it’s always been easy. I have a 14-year-old cat that has never been out of the house (except to go to the vet for her shots annually) and she’s happy and content. She knows what birds are as she will look out the window at them but never attempts to catch them. The hunting instinct is there but the opportunity isn’t. She seems satisfied just knowing she can do it without necessarily killing something.

Cats can be leash-trained despite popular thought and, if one still insists they must be allowed outside, an enclosure can be built for them, much as one would for a dog.

We won’t solve the conflict here but each time someone chooses nature over their cat’s freedom, many wild things will survive for generations to come.

Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant.

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