Halifax regional councillors have approved a controversial animal bylaw aimed at preventing cats from roaming in public.

The bylaw, narrowly approved in an 11-9 vote on Tuesday night, means cat owners must register their pets by April. The cost to license cats: as much as $30 a year.

If a cat is found outside its owner's property, it may be trapped and sent to a municipal shelter -- which is to be built and operated at an estimated cost of $3.3 million.

"The thing is we don't know what the total cost is going to be and nobody can tell us right yet," Coun. Steve Adams told CTV.ca.

"We're committing to something and we don't know the cost."

Adams voted against the bylaw, which he says will not be enforced by Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) officials.

"This is designed so that residents have to do the work, this just gives residents the power to be able to trap a cat if it's on their property," said Adams.

"That's all it does, there will be no HRM individuals policing the stray cats."

However, Coun. Krista Snow told CTV.ca that bylaw officers must respond to serious complaints.

"(They) have to enforce every bylaw, they can't pick and choose what they think is popular," she said.

Snow said she voted in support of the bylaw because it was important to her constituents.

"I feel that the right decision was made. It's long overdue and I've already received many emails today from people all over the municipality thanking me for my support," she told CTV.ca.

But Snow added she received one nasty email from a constituent who promised she'll lose at least one vote because of her decision. However, Snow said the bylaw will ensure that more cats are looked after.

Still, she said the money to pay for the shelter shouldn't come from general taxpayers but rather from licensing fees.

"If people are responsible and they license their dog and their cat, we're not going to have an issue," said Snow.

But Halifax mayor Peter Kelly said he fears the new cat bylaw will work like the region's old dog bylaw. Only 10 per cent of dog owners pay to license their canines.

"We have some issues with the current bylaw," said Kelly.

"We haven't got it right, so why bother adding more complications and more issues on top of what's already a problem, which we know is a problem."

Adams said councillors should be more concerned with bigger issues.

"I've gotten six phone calls on cats in the last 15 years, and it's always the same six people with the same six issues," said Adams.

"I'm not saying that those issues aren't bothersome but in the general mandate of council they're not overly important issues."

Owners will have to pay $10 for an altered and inoculated pet and up to $30 for an unaltered one.

Seniors will be given a discount.