In 2012, the Halifax cat known worldwide as Tuxedo Stan ran for mayor, drawing awareness to the city’s feral cat problem. He quickly became a famous internet cat, and shortly after, city councillors signed the Tuxedo Stan pledge and promised to address Halifax’s feral cat crisis.
Three years later, Stan is dead, and local cat rescue charities say those promises have yet to be fulfilled.
“A lot of people believe that the city is dealing with these issues because it’s been in the news so much in the last years. They’re quite surprised when I tell them that nothing is happening,” says Linda Felix, who volunteers with the Spay Day HRM Society.
Felix, who was also involved with the Tuxedo Stan campaign, says it’s a blatant animal cruelty issue.
“We rescued a cat in January that was almost frozen to the ground. We had to pry him out and he was literally a bag of bones, and hours from death.”
The crisis is particularly severe in low-income areas, where people often can’t afford to get their cats fixed.
“In public housing there’s a rodent problem, so people get cats to control it,” says Felix. “These people are largely rescuing cats. They see them outside freezing to death and they let them in. The shelters are full, so they keep them...they don’t go out of their way to acquire animals that they can’t afford.”
In the months following the Tuxedo Stan campaign, the SPCA received a $40,000 grant from the city to help establish a low cost spay-and-neuter clinic.
“There still exists a cat crisis in our province. But since our spay and neuter clinic opened in 2013, we have performed over 5,000 surgeries,” says Sandra Flemming, director of animal care for the Nova Scotia SPCA. “It’s at the heart of fixing the problem of cat overpopulation.”
Flemming says the SPCA has been aggressively tackling the issue. Last year, for the first time, they saw a reduction in the amount of stray and abandoned kittens coming into their shelter during the peak breeding season. But she says that the SPCA , with their limited resources, can’t solve the problem on their own.
“We do receive generous grants through the HRM Grant Committee for infrastructure renewal and expenditures. But our shelter does not receive any funding whatsoever for our day-to-day operations. It takes about $65,000 to $75,000-a-month to run.”
In January, councillor Stephen Adams tabled a motion for the creation of a Domestic Animal Advisory Committee, which would include local veterinarians, members from cat rescue groups, the Nova Scotia SPCA and a provincial representative from the Department of Natural Resources.
According to a spokesperson for the city, staff are currently drafting a report to assess the project. It will come back before Regional Council for further discussion later this year.
While Felix and Flemming both welcome the project, they say they have not yet been contacted to participate.
“They’re still studying the idea of having people sit around a table to talk about cats,” says Felix. “If they can’t sit down and talk about cats, how can they solve all the major problems in the city, such as poverty and homelessness? Cats are just part of that equation.”