What was the motivation for the new bylaw?
The contract with the existing animal contractor recently expired, which presented the opportunity to do a comprehensive review of the service delivery model as it has not been done in several years.
In December 2019, Allan Neilson, of Neilson Strategies, was retained by the City to conduct the review. As part of that review, he was asked to undertake the following:
At the June 8, 2020 Special Council meeting, Mr. Neilson presented his findings and report entitled “Animal Contract Service Review” and outlined the key issues and recommendations for moving forward.
At the July 6, 2020 Council meeting, staff brought forward a report that included the recommendations outlined in Mr. Neilson’s report for Council’s consideration. One of the recommendations endorsed by Council was to have staff prepare a modernized Licensing and Control of Animals Bylaw to incorporate the recommendations of the service review which included:
A draft bylaw was then prepared and stakeholder organizations who were affected by the bylaw were invited to provide feedback on the draft. Suggestions were compiled, feedback incorporated, and then forwarded to the Municipal Solicitor for review. The bylaw was then presented to Council for feedback at the November 9, 2020 Governance and Priorities Committee of which a motion was passed to forward the draft bylaw to Council, for consideration of first 3 readings.
Although stakeholder organizations that were affected by the bylaw were consulted, and a thorough staff review conducted, on November 14, 2020, the Nanaimo Bulletin printed an article that contained an error. This, coupled with other misinformation that was being shared City-wide, and the strong desire by members of the public to have an opportunity to comment on the bylaw, Council was prompted to delay consideration of the bylaw until members of the public had an opportunity to provide feedback.
Why does the bylaw propose a limit on the number of pets I can have?
The existing bylaw has no limit to the number of pets one can have and this has led to hoarding issues. It is recognized that the number of animals that one household can provide care for is always going to be subjective. The size and type of animal, the owner’s capacity to provide care, and the size of the owner’s property all play a role in how many animals for whom it is possible to provide adequate care. The goal was to find an acceptable limit that allows for enforcement in hoarding situations, while not penalizing the average owner.
How was the number of pets determined?
To determine an appropriate number, several municipal bylaws that have limits on pets were reviewed. Based on those bylaws, a recommendation was put forward that each property owner be allowed up to 6 Companion Animals (including not more than 4 Dogs over the age of 16 weeks and not more than 5 cats over the age of 12 weeks).
In addition to the 6 Companion Animals, under the proposed bylaw each property owner could also have up to 4 small animals (such as hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and small birds). This means that each property owner has the potential to own 10 pets.
Are there exceptions to the number of pets I can have?
Yes. Exemptions are provided in the following instances:
A person who is a member of a certified pigeon racing club may keep up to a maximum of fifty (50) racing pigeons on any parcel of land over .4 hectares.
What happens if I currently have more than the allotted number of pets?
Residents who may have more than the allotted number of pets prior to adoption of the bylaw would be exempted. They would, however, not be permitted to replace the animal once it passes away, or is given away, until the conditions of the bylaw are met.
How will the limit on the number of dogs affect me as a dog breeder?
The existing “Licencing and Control of Animals Bylaw” did not authorize or govern home based dog breeders. Under the new Animal Responsibility Bylaw, provisions have been added to allow those who breed and sell under 15 dogs per year to possess more than 4 dogs under the age of 16 weeks.
Commercial dog breeders (those that breed and sell more than 15 dogs per year) are governed under the City’s Zoning Bylaw. The Zoning Bylaw prohibits commercial dog breeding as a home based business use.
All dog breeders (home-based and commercial) must possess a valid business licence to operate in the City of Nanaimo.
Are boarding kennels affected by this bylaw?
No. Boarding kennels for dogs and cats, including accessory office, retail sale, grooming, training, and daycare facilities are governed under the City’s Zoning bylaw.
Are dog agility shows considered an exhibition and no longer allowed?
Exhibitions, parades or performances involving horses, ponies, dog, displays or showing of animals in agricultural fairs or pet shows, or magic acts are still allowed provided that the exhibition, parade or performance in no way causes an animal to be treated in an inhumane manner.
Am I mandatorily required to sterilize my dog under the proposed bylaw?
No, there are no provisions in the proposed bylaw that require an owner to sterilize their dog.
What is the rationale for prohibiting cats from roaming outdoors?
Section 41 (Animals on Private Property) of the Animal Responsibility Bylaw states that: “The Owner of an Animal must not allow the Animal to trespass on any private property without the consent of the occupier or Owner of the lands or premises.”
Owners of outdoor cats are still able to allow their cats to enjoy the outdoors; however, owners should be mindful that if there is a complaint submitted to the City due to their cat(s) trespassing on any private property (without the owner’s consent), the City’s Bylaw Enforcement will investigate the matter and work with the cat owners on getting compliance and raising awareness of the Animal Responsibility Bylaw.
Without a provision in a bylaw to prohibit this, there is no recourse for a property owner who is dealing with a nuisance cat that may be harassing their own animals, digging in their garden, using their yard as a litter box, spraying, or preying on songbirds in their yard. This has been the subject of many complaints to Nanaimo Animal Control and to Council.
Indoor vs. outdoor is about weighing the risks for your cat. Statistically, outdoor cats have shorter lifespans and are frequently exposed to more dangers than their indoor counterparts. Outdoor cats also contribute to declining bird populations and pose a risk for wildlife in our community.
The BC SPCA’s website offers many tips on ways to provide cats with safe and supervised outside time while still adhering to the proposed bylaw as well as tips on keeping one’s cat happy, healthy and safe indoors.
How will cats at large be enforced?
Most municipalities that have cat regulations enforce them on a complaint basis. Animal Control Officers do not patrol for cats at large or impound cats on a proactive basis. Typically the bylaws are enforced as a result of two types of complaints:
Nanaimo Animal Control receives hundreds of calls from residents every week and both the above concerns are very common. Without bylaws in place, frustrated residents are left to take matters into their own hands, which causes neighbourhood conflict and missing cats. The concerned residents are dismayed at the lack of resources available for lost, stray, or abandoned cats.
Is there a requirement for my cat to be on a leash when outside?
There is no requirement for a cat to be a on a leash. The Animal Responsibility Bylaw sets the structure that if there is a nuisance animal, stray or abandoned cat, or feral population that needs addressing, this Bylaw gives Bylaw Enforcement Officers the ability to respond to complaints and protect the health and well-being of the Animals.
What is the Promise to Return Policy?
This Bylaw was created to protect cats from any harm or danger and to return them to their owners should the cat be impounded and to allow Bylaw Enforcement Officers to respond to concerns or complaints regarding a particular cat.
Upon impoundment, the Poundkeeper will check the cat for identification (which includes checking for ear tattoos and scanning for a microchip) as soon as is practicable. Once the owner has been notified (either by phone, or in person) that their cat has been impounded, the owner may claim the cat at the Pound at their earliest opportunity.
Exceptions for cat owners to be aware of:
If you own a cat, please help make it easier for the Poundkeeper to reunite you with your cat by making sure your cat has proper identification and the contact information on file is updated.
Impound fees will be waived until January 1, 2023 for any cat that is impounded in violation of Section 41 or 47 of the “Animal Responsibility Bylaw 2021 No. 7316” subject to the cat being sterilized and having identification (as defined in the Animal Responsibility Bylaw).
In cases where no owner is found, the cat will be spayed or neutered, affixed with permanent identification, and put up for adoption to an indoor-only home.
Why can’t I feed feral cats?
Feeding feral cats can attract owned cats (those that have a guardian who provides food for them) as well as unwanted wildlife. It also won’t help them in the long run, especially if they are in poor conditions or plagued with parasites. They also breed prolifically when a group of them has access to a food source and the continued growth of these groups without any intervention can put public safety and wildlife at risk. If the population grows too large and they stop getting fed, they will starve.
There are exemptions for feeding of feral cats for those who are registered with the Cat Nap Society and in these instances care is taken to ensure that cats released back into the community, once sterilized, have regular access to food and water.
What if I stop feeding stray cats; will they starve and die?
If you have a stray cat that is visiting you and appears to be skinny, sick or injured, rather than continuing to feed it, contact Nanaimo Animal Control, the BC SPCA or the Cat Nap Society. Then it can see a vet, be treated, and if it can’t be reunited with, or has no owner, can be rehomed rather than living hungry and fending for itself.
Am I mandatorily required to sterilize my cat under the proposed bylaw?
Yes. The majority of the animals that the BC SPCA takes in are either strays or unwanted litters of cats. Through comprehensive and wide ranging spay/neuter initiatives, the population of unwanted cats in BC has declined significantly. In 7 years, one unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats. For animal control officers and organizations such as the Cat Nap Society, addressing issues surrounding unfixed cats are not only costly – taking away from other City services and programs – but also causes distress and an unsustainable workload for employees.
The BC SPCA annually runs a low cost spay-neuter program for low-income families to have their pet sterilized. Free microchipping is also offered as part of this program.
Exemptions are provided for cat breeders who hold a valid business licence.
Are there limits on birds and other small animals?
Under the proposed bylaw, a limit of 4 birds (under the definition of a small animal) is proposed, in addition to 6 companion animals. The goal was to find an acceptable limit that allows for enforcement in hoarding situations, while not penalizing the average owner. Residents who may have more than the allotted number of birds and other small animals as pets prior to adoption of the bylaw would be exempted. They would, however, not be permitted to replace the excess number of birds or small animals until the conditions of the bylaw are met.