“Each year is more appalling than the previous one”: sterilizing your cat is compulsory but shelters regret that the measure is not always respected

It is an obligation both in Brussels and in Wallonia. Sterilizing your cat is mandatory for all owners. And yet, this measure is not respected according to Joëlle who contacted us via the orange button Alert us. According to her, sterilization does not work. How do we enforce the law? Are there any penalties? Explanations.

“The law requiring the sterilization of cats in Brussels does not work. More and more cats are found in the streets with kittens because the masters do not sterilize them”. Behind this cry of anger, Joëlle. This cat owner is used to visiting an animal shelter, especially to bring supplies. And every time she walks through the doors, the same feeling goes through her. “It hurts my heart. I would like to adopt all these cats but it’s not easy. I already have two cats”she says.

Because in this refuge, the cats taken in are numerous. Located in Brussels, this asbl has one goal: to fight against feline proliferation. “We focus on the feline misery of the most difficult neighborhoods where they never last long… Where they end up under a car or mistreated”, explains Stéphanie Challe, director of the refuge.

Every year is more dreadful

In Wallonia, the sterilization of cats has been compulsory since 2017. In Brussels, it has been since 2018. “As of January 1, 2018, however, every cat owner must have it sterilized before it reaches the age of 6 months. If you already own a cat born before January 1, 2018, it must be sterilized before July 1, 2018”, specify the Brussels authorities on their website. The purpose of this compulsory sterilization: to limit the number of unwanted births, and therefore abandonments.

However, despite the measure, the Brussels refuge that we visited is always full. “Each year is more terrible than the previous one. We are called everywhere because people have not followed this law”, says the director. Today, the shelter is overcrowded. No additional cats can be accommodated. “Every day, we have to refuse between 10 and 30 requests for care”, regrets Stephanie Challe. Each time a newcomer arrives, the same observation occurs: the animal is not sterilized. The volunteers of the shelter therefore take care of the transport to the veterinarian.

Jean-François Lardinois, veterinarian, is used to sterilizing these stray cats. Each year, he performs up to 300 sterilizations. “The proliferation of cats is worrying. On the one hand, for the cats themselves. All these cats which are born and which are abandoned are animals doomed to unenviable lives and which are also responsible for nuisances. They are predators so when they have nothing to eat, they have an impact on wildlife. We have to fight against that. I am in favor of sterilization”, emphasizes the veterinarian.

For this specialist, the measure of obligation in force does not work. “The results are quite mediocre. From year to year, I still operate as many cats”, he indicates. Not neutering your cat can have unintended consequences. The risk: that a simple gestation becomes exponential. Potentially in 4 years, it could result in the birth of 20,000 kittens.

According to him, the price is one of the criteria that hinders compliance with the measure. It takes an average of 150€ for a female and 90€ for a male. The veterinarian believes that enforcing sterilization will always be complicated despite his obligation. “Perhaps it should be made more difficult to own an animal. Today, everyone can have a cat. But not everyone can afford to take care of it”he says.

How to control?

Bernard Clerfayt, Brussels Minister for Animal Welfare, is well aware that these regulations are not always respected. “Sometimes people are reluctant to take this step for budgetary and financial reasons. Others also claim that their cat stays in the apartment, never goes out and does not risk meeting other cats and making babies”says the minister.

It is estimated that there are around 130,000 cats in the Brussels region. Among them, only ten thousand are sterilized. Sanctions exist in the event of non-compliance with the measure. If the file goes to the prosecution, the penalty can range from 8 days to 2 years in prison and/or a fine of 50 to 100,000 euros. For its part, the administration can prosecute and set an administrative fine ranging from €50 to €62,500.

But Bernard Clerfayt stresses that the controls are complicated. “I don’t know how to ask the police who have other tasks to do, to enter the apartments and control everyone’s other cats. It doesn’t make sense”, says Bernard Clerfayt. For now, the only weapon to combat this problem: awareness.

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