Original Published 09:15 Apr 15, 2022
By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Town of Strathmore has approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Happy Cat Society, agreeing to provide them with $50,000 for the 2022 financial year.
During the Mar. 16 regular council meeting, Happy Cat Sanctuary originally presented the request to council for additional funding in order to continue operations without shortfall. The town has previously funded Happy Cat, though in smaller sums.
Councilor Denise Peterson motioned for council to approve the MoU as presented.
Councilor Jason Montgomery did not support the motion, citing that although the town does have a bylaw regarding loose and feral cats, $50,000 was more than he would want to see expended on the problem.
“I’ve gone over the information that’s been provided, and I’ve asked for follow-up on (that) information… in my first couple years on council, I’ve seen this start out with a smaller ask form council, then that ask increased, and it’s increased again,” he said.
“I’m concerned about the fact that this is an increasing cost for the town, and meanwhile, we have ever dwindling free funds. I have concerns about whether this money should be directed this way how much money should be directed this way.”
Additionally, he said dealing with other pests such as skunks seemed to him like a higher priority issue than roaming cats.
Financially, another of Montgomery’s concerns included whether due to the scale of operation which Happy Cat is operating, and bringing in cats from outside the town, whether Strathmore’s finances were being adequately spent on a Strathmore problem.
“My concern is that there is town money being put towards a problem that is essentially from out of town,” he said.
“I think it’s fair to say that if there was not cats being brought in from out of town, the scale of Happy Cat would probably not be what it is, and wouldn’t need as many volunteers, volunteer hours, it wouldn’t need possibly retail space to be rented if there was not hundreds of extra cats being brought in.”
Councilor Melissa Langmaid was fully in support of establishing the MoU with Happy Cat Sanctuary.
“As a previous volunteer for Happy Cat, I appreciate the work that they’re doing in the community, not only from the aspect of saving cats, taking them off the streets and making sure that they’re fed, find homes, and all that, but also for the community spirit that they foster in Strathmore,” she said.
“(With) the amount of people who come together to volunteer at that facility, I feel like we’re getting much more than just cat control. We’re getting a facility that really encourages young people, old people, everyone from the community to come out and volunteer.”
She added her belief that Strathmore would be hard pressed to find a similar level of service for the same price looking elsewhere than the local sanctuary, in addition to potentially losing the established community and volunteer opportunities Happy Cat provides.
Mayor Pat Fule, also on board with the idea, suggested that if the town is paying for cat control regardless, he would rather it be a positive community experience as opposed to occupying town staff.
“One way or another, Strathmore is going to have to pay for the cat situation that develops. We don’t really know the cost of how it would be for our enforcement officers to have to manage that situation,” he said.
“We pay one way or the other. I don’t know which way is cheaper, but I would much rather have our enforcement officers in town, doing their jobs, as opposed to having to drive to the city to have cats looked after.”
Ultimately, Councilor Peterson’s motion was carried.
This item reprinted with permission from Strathmore Times, Strathmore, Alberta