Animal Responsibility Bylaw

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Consultation has concluded

drawing of dog, cat, turtle, hamster, parrot and chameleon.

Thank you for your interest in learning more about the Animal Responsibility Bylaw. Here, you will learn about the new bylaw, be able to ask questions and submit your feedback.


In December 2019, the City hired a consultant, Allan Neilson of Neilson Strategies, to:

  • review the City’s animal control services,
  • identify service-related issues,
  • conduct research on best practices and experiences in other jurisdictions, and
  • provide recommendations for the City to consider.

The findings of the report recommended an amendment to the bylaw to focus on the importance of responsible pet ownership and to incorporate the following provisions:

Thank you for your interest in learning more about the Animal Responsibility Bylaw. Here, you will learn about the new bylaw, be able to ask questions and submit your feedback.


In December 2019, the City hired a consultant, Allan Neilson of Neilson Strategies, to:

  • review the City’s animal control services,
  • identify service-related issues,
  • conduct research on best practices and experiences in other jurisdictions, and
  • provide recommendations for the City to consider.

The findings of the report recommended an amendment to the bylaw to focus on the importance of responsible pet ownership and to incorporate the following provisions:

  • removing reference to “Restricted Dogs” since it is no longer best practice (and not practicable) to target;
  • changing “Vicious Dog” to “Aggressive Dog”;
  • modernizing sections to reflect current best practices on standards of care;
  • requiring every owner of a cat to provide the cat with identification;
  • requiring every cat that is permitted to go outside be spayed or neutered; and
  • prohibiting cats to be at large in a public place or on another person’s property, unless it is under the immediate charge and control of the owner or other person responsible for the animal.

At their July 6, 2020 meeting, Council supported these recommendations and directed staff to develop a bylaw to incorporate the recommendations.

Staff reached out to stakeholders that would be most affected by the bylaw and asked for their input:

  • Alison Cuffley, Government Relations Officer, for the BC SPCA and Leon Davis, Shelter Manager for the BC SPCA Nanaimo location
  • Ian Fraser and Carley Cocluff, from Nanaimo Animal Control Services
  • Chrystal Kleisinger, Executive Director of the Cat Nap Society
  • Lynn Devries, who has raised backyard bees for the past 30 years provided feedback and clarification on the wording as it relates to the keeping of bees.

“The proposed Animal Responsibility Bylaw is a welcome improvement over the current bylaw. The addition of animal care standards, regulations for cats, and the replacement of breed specific legislation with stronger dangerous dog provisions will improve the welfare of animals in our community while also helping to protect public safety.”

Carley Colclough, Pound and Adoption Coordinator for Nanaimo Animal Control Services

"The BC SPCA is supportive of municipalities who take a proactive approach to public health and safety through comprehensive animal bylaws. Incidents involving cat overpopulation, dangerous dogs, and hoarding have created expectations for regulators to proactively address these issues and the City of Nanaimo has an opportunity to be a leader in this regard. Municipalities without bylaws in place to address animal issues can also become known as a “safe haven” for people who neglect and abuse animals. The BC SPCA frequently encounters scenarios where a person facing enforcement action in one municipality for animal neglect will move to another with fewer regulatory bylaws. As the City of Nanaimo has taken a practical approach to updating their animal responsibility bylaw, the BC SPCA is in support of these changes and the positive outcome for animals in your community."

Alison, Government Relations Officer, BC SPCA

"On behalf of CatNap Society (Cats Needing Aid and Protection), a CRA registered charity and BC registered non-profit society, we feel that the revised animal control bylaws pertaining to cats are significantly overdue for a community of Nanaimo’s size. We are a cat rescue group, who has been operating to help the community of Nanaimo for 22 years and our 75+ unpaid volunteers selflessly devote hours of personal time and expense to rescue 400–500 homeless and abandoned stray and feral cats annually.

The fact that there is no spay/neuter or permanent identification bylaws for free-roaming cats in our city, are the sole reasons why our animal rescue exists. We have been trying to address that problem in our city since our inception in 1998, by getting all of our rescued cats spayed/neutered to help prevent unwanted future litters and advocating for a spay/neuter bylaw.

If our community and its citizens could personally witness our front-line rescue efforts and thereby understand what happens when unspayed/unneutered cats are left to free-roam, breed and fend for themselves, they wouldn’t hesitate to support the revised animal control bylaws for cats. The significant degree of needless suffering that the cats we rescue experience with parasites, disease, exposure to toxins/the elements, starvation, and the many other medical issues we see, is heart-breaking. Responsible cat ownership is the key to prevention of all of these issues, and the new provisions in the draft bylaws directly address responsible cat ownership. The implementation of these types of cat bylaws have been proven strategies in other Vancouver Island communities, and they can and will work for Nanaimo too.

We are in full support of the current animal control bylaw revisions that have been put forward to Council and welcome any opportunity to help our community’s citizens understand the urgency and necessity of all of the proposed cat bylaws."

Chrystal Kleisinger and Cathy Brzoza, Board of Director Representatives/Volunteers, CatNap Society

Staff from various departments also provided input on the bylaw:

  • Dave LaBerge, and Cheryl Kuczerski, from Bylaw Services
  • Kevin Brydges, who is the City’s Environment Protection Officer, viewed it from a wildlife management perspective.
  • Barbara Wardill, from Finance, reviewed it from the fee and licensing perspective; and
  • Jeremy Holm, from Development Services from a zoning perspective.

On November 9, 2020, the bylaw was presented to the Governance and Priorities Committee and the Committee passed a motion to have the bylaw read at the November 16, 2020 Regular Council meeting. During that meeting, Council passed the following resolution:

"That readings of the Animal Control Bylaw be delayed until Staff have had the opportunity to post the Draft Bylaw to the City’s Bang the Table platform for 3 weeks of public input, create a report on that input for consideration of changes that might be incorporated into the draft Bylaw, and bring back to Council for three readings in early January."

Questions and feedback will be taken until December 11, 2020. We will then report back to Council with your input in January 2021.

How you can get involved:

  • Learn about the bylaw
  • Submit a question in the Questions? tab below (you will need to register for Get Involved Nanaimo first)
  • Provide feedback in the Feedback tab below (you will need to register for Get Involved Nanaimo first)

We recommend you read through the information provided in the Documents, Links and FAQs sections before submitting your questions and feedback. We understand this is an important topic for many, please be respectful in your feedback. All questions and feedback will be third party moderated. for more information, please review the site's Forum Etiquette & Moderation protocols.


Review the documents in the Document Library, links and FAQs and provide any feedback you have about the changes to the bylaw. Please keep comments respectful, on topic and unique (do not post multiple comments regarding the same topic) as per our moderation guidelines.

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Have a major concern lock all the cats up and our city will be taken over by rats and I guess you will have to have a bylaw on rats as well.....I think you need to rethink locking up cats that never have been inside.... My idea is send them to your house and lets see how fast you let them outside......My cat is fixed and my neighbours invite in there yards as they don't have cat,so he keeps thee yards free of rats and mice... So I'm against the bylaw

Tanya over 3 years ago

Cats have lived with humans across the globe for approximately 10,000 years. This relationship is theorized as having developed due to the mutual benefit for both cats and humans. Agrarian human communities attracted small mammals, such as rodents. An abundance of rodents attracted native fauna, including wild cats, which kept the rodent populations in check. Overtime these cats became domesticated and valued as companion animals.
38% of Canadian households have one cat or more. Research has demonstrated that companion animals can help to decrease stress and create feelings of well being in pet owners. Over the past nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic these benefits have become increasingly important in helping Canadians to stave off despair and feelings of loneliness.
Part 6. Sections 41 and 47 of the proposed City of Nanaimo, Animal Responsibility Bylaw No. 7316, which will mandate pet owners having to keep their indoor/outdoor cats confined or leashed, will only serve to increase the extreme stress and challenges that the pandemic has created. Cats, especially older cats, can develop stress related medical conditions caused by the abrupt changes in their routines and environment. The bylaw does not acknowledge the costs to cat owners, who are likely to encounter increased veterinary costs, when their animals experience the chronic stress of being confined at all times whether indoors or in an outside enclosure. Chronic stress in cats can be a significant factor in the development of behavioural problems and stress-related disease. It is also unrealistic to expect that every cat owner would even have the finances or ability to build an enclosure for their cat. Older cats rarely adapt well to harness and leash training causing undue stress for both cat and owner.
Distinctions need to be drawn between responsibly owned pet cats and feral cat populations, which rely on predation for survival. With the exception of extremely isolated small oceanic islands where no predator species were present prior to the introduction of feral cats by humans, there is no definitive evidence that cats are the prime cause of bird extinctions. Data regarding bird mortality in most ecosystems has been primarily calculated by estimates based on statistical analysis and/or mathematical modeling and the numbers are considered to be speculative. Studies have shown that responsible care and feeding of pet cats lessens the area they frequent outdoors and that many well cared for pet cats are not successful predators. There is, however, ample data that identifies urban and suburban land use practices, such as the removal of trees, increases in impervious surfaces, like concrete, as well as the changes in temperature, rainfall, wind velocity, and ocean and lake levels resulting from climate change, as major causes for the decline in bird populations across North America. Regulations targeted at controlling feral cat populations should not penalize responsible cat owners who spay/neuter, vaccinate, tattoo/ microchip, and generally monitor the health and safety of their pets.

involved over 3 years ago

This new draft bylaw offers a significant improvement in many areas. It is hoped that with a prohibition against pet cats roaming outside their owner’s property, that we would no longer find cat faeces in our vegetable boxes, nor would we find bird corpses mauled by the cats. However, even with the best intended bylaws the challenge remains with enforcement. This is particularly an issue with dogs being unleashed in parks where unleashing is prohibited. This problem seems to have gotten much worse in the last few years, particularly in Planta Park and to a much worse degree in Linley Valley Park. Hopefully, the city bylaw department can find a more effective means of enforcing those areas of the bylaws where they are being increasingly ignored.

valerior over 3 years ago

I am happy to finally see some action on cats as I am tired of having a number of them on my property teasing my dog but also using it as their bathroom. Dogs have to be on leash and registered, so should cats or any other animals without the city. As a dog owner I have to pick up after my dog and so should cats. If an owner can’t keep their cat inside, on their property only then perhaps they should not own one.

Mhornby over 3 years ago

I think the restriction on outside cats are very narrow without consideration to the number of cats that do remain in the owners property, and do control rat and mouse issues on homeowner property which seems to be a plague in Nanaimo.
Cats are not meant to be harnessed.
Control of cats should be left to the owner not city control officers. (surely they have better things to be doing than chasing cat complaints)
In reading the bylaw I feel the reason is more for the nuisance factor of cat littering on others' property. I don't seem to see any mention in the bylaw of nuisance dogs that bark when someone walks by the house or while working in the yard are continually barked at.
There must be other ways to control the few nuisance animals than penalizing the majority. As for the the rational of cats carrying and spreading diseases does that mean dogs disease free.

douglasmcp over 3 years ago

I am strongly against the new bylaw section prohibiting cats from roaming. Cats deserve to be free.

daisysunshine over 3 years ago

I have already sent an e-mail to council and mayor to express my strong objection to dogs running free in neighborhoods and especially in parks that have a "No Dogs Allowed" sign at every entrance. I also object to extendable leashes, which de facto allow dogs to run free; any bylaw should include a prohibition on this so-called "control;"leashes should be no longer than 2 meters.
Having said that, I think that passing a bylaw that the city cannot, or is not willing to, enforce is worse than having no bylaw at all. If dog-owners flaunt a bylaw, knowing that they can get away with it, will that extend to other bylaws? Will people lose any respect for any bylaws? So please don't pass this bylaw without adequate means of enforcement; it would be meaningless to the point of being ludicrous.

chambermusic over 3 years ago

The only part of the bylaw that I have trouble with is the proposal that all cats have to be confined to their owners property and controlled by a leash when on public property. We have an old cat that generally stays near our house but does explore around the neighbourhood on occasion. We have tried, but failed miserable in getting him used to a harness and leash. There needs to be some recognition that trying to retrain or confine older cats as proposed, may not be possible and actually cruel. It appears The SPCA was involved in drafting these new requirements which is a bit of a surprise as it probably means fewer people will be interested in adopting cats from them in future. We certainly won't be getting another one when this one dies-even though he has been great in keeping the rats under control.

Allan Davidson over 3 years ago

We DO have a problem with increasing numbers of abandoned and feral cats due to uncontrolled breeding. To that end, I support the cat spay and neuter bylaw.

The rest of it should be addressed through education, and by neighbours working together to solve problems. Once we address the excessive breeding, and resulting feral cats - problems of roaming, garden damage, wildlife kills, etc will be greatly reduced. And if there IS a problem with neighbourhood cats - much can be resolved by working together on solutions. There is much that can be done to reduce these problems, and perhaps the City can help provide education.

Excessive government controls will likely cause more conflict, and unnecessarily restrict responsible pet owners. Some aspects, such as forcing adult/older cats onto a leash or cage with no transition process, is downright cruel to cats and their equally distressed people.

Bottom line - the carrot usually works better than the stick!

Debbie N over 3 years ago

I think this bylaw makes sense for the most part but agree with the comments regarding phasing it in and perhaps grandfathering existing outdoor cats. I also feel that implementing this kind of a bylaw now during COVID while families are already stressed could really add to the challenges people and pets are experiencing. I strongly suggest going for a phased implementation so that everyone has time to adjust and we get through the existing circumstances adding to the stresses.

Digna over 3 years ago

I generally support this bylaw as written. The previous owners of our home had an "outdoor cat" and when they moved to a new community, they could not catch the cat to take it with them. They actually ended up leaving the cat behind and four years later, it is still out there. Repeated attempts by the SPCA and others to catch it have failed; it will not go near humans. It is this type of situation that I believe a bylaw like this would help prevent.

lmcleod over 3 years ago

No cats outside = more rats.

Rkgrant over 3 years ago

An agreement with all of your conditions of the proposed by law with the exception of cats can't be outside your yard. I have a old cat and there is no way I could convert that cat to an indoor cat after having been an indoor outdoor all its life. There is no good way short of creating a catio of keeping your cat in your yard. I don't have the funds to create one. I totally agree with the identification and spay or neuter but the requirement to keep them indoors is not feasible. In a city that i
Has so many pressing issues and so many of those issues so closely tied to poverty, why would you choose now to impose a bylaw that would end up costing you are citizens money they cannot afford to spend.

Rkgrant over 3 years ago

I am in agreement for limiting the number of animals a household can possess. I am also in agreement for changing the language for referencing dogs.

I am in agreement for licensing cats as well.

I do not agree with preventing cats from being outside. There are many animals that roam wildly in our environment. These animals also poop and damage property. They also cause car accidents. Homewowners then have to adapt their yards to either live peacefully with the animals or prevent them from entering.

Cats do keep the rodent population low. It has also been shown that buildings and logging and clearing of city lots has caused significant damage to the bird population. That cats are not the only contributor factor.

Cats do get into incidents with other animals. Dogs do as well. I have been approached by many off leash dogs while walking in numerous city parks. If I had a dog on a leash, they easily could have been attacked.

If cats were to be regulated to indoor only, the amount of garbage would increase due to cat litter being needed. Cat litter is heavy, expensive, damaging to cats health, damaging to human health. I don’t imagine getting everyone to deal appropriately with indoor poop would be easy. It would also cause undue stress on many animals who are used to being outside. You cannot simply put a collar and leash on a cat and continue on with life.

I imagine that by limiting the number of animals per household, licensing all animals, and encouraging people to clean up after all animals most of our citizens can continue to enjoy pet ownership responsibly.

Animals are not a major issue for the majority of Nanaimo. We have a homeless population and drug addicted population and housing crisis that needs our complete focus financially and mentally. There are families and seniors suffering daily from lack of housing and jobs.

Snickered over 3 years ago

I agree with managing outdoor pet populations, in fact I believe cats shouldn't be allowed to roam outdoors at all. And dogs should require basic training from a young age to avoid and assess behavior issues.

That said a four pet limit is rediculess, I have more species than that at any given time! I wont ever be rehoming any of my pets, they are my life.
The limit will impact small ethical breeders and rescues.
It's a guarantee that people will not clame the pets they own.
The well being of a pet is the important part, do screenings, check ups, if an animal isn't receiving they best care than legal action is necessary.
We need harsher punishment for animal abuse and neglect, not more rules against responsibility pet owners

Razza over 3 years ago

While I am in favour of many parts of this bylaw (removing BSL, more controls on cats), I do not think it is necessary to set such low limits on the amount of animals you are permitted to own. As a dog breeder I need to be able to take back a puppy I have bred if any issues arise, and if I’m already at or over the limit I wouldn’t be able to do so. I also would have to rehome any retired dogs if I wanted to continue breeding. And since the cat and dog limits are combined I could have even less dogs if I had four cats as I currently do. And for others who rescue dogs that are unadoptable it severely limits the amount of dogs they can care for which would otherwise end up in a shelter. I also worry that people will choose to get rid of pets they have grown tired of if they want to get a new one, burdening our shelters further. Or they might be afraid of breaking the law and may withhold needed veterinary care for fear of being punished. The limit of four small animals is also absolutely ridiculous. Many people with an aviary have more than four birds. Most small birds and rodents do much better in pairs or small groups and to have such a low number would be detrimental to their care. And anybody who breeds small animals could never hope to do so with only four. If the concern is with noise or smell we already have bylaws in place that prohibit that.

robinmiller42 over 3 years ago

Unpopular opinion, all outdoor cats must be licensed. this provides more funding for animal control, and in turn provides better service. I'm a fan of the majority of the calgary bylaw.

Cantara over 3 years ago

I would like to see a nuisance dog bylaw for dogs that are continuously problems, and a aggressive dog bylaw for multiple minor incidents and then a dangerous dog/vicious dog for dogs that do serious damage. If the licenses fees are higher for these dogs, I think giving them a 50% discount on the fee would be good if they take a 6 week course from a local dog trainer or something like that.

Cantara over 3 years ago

I would like to thank everyone involved on the removal of BSL. I also think its great to have a no cat roaming bylaw.
*However, I would also like to see responsible owners REWARDED. If the CGN was a way to remove the restricted status of bully breed, then perhaps we can reward all owners who get a CGN by giving them a $5 discount on licensing. This way we reward people who are training their dogs to model citizens. The more model dogs we have int he city, the less problems. owners also learn what is acceptable and what isn't in terms of behaviour and how to manage their dog. this seems like a win-win to me.
*I would also like to see the remove of the pet restrictions. Why punish good owners? owning 6 dogs doesn't mean a person is irresponsible, in fact I know many dog friends around BC with over 4 and all are well taken care of. The care standards in the bylaw help to deal with hoarders- but also remember that hoarding stems from a mental health issue.

Cantara over 3 years ago

Check out the Central Okanagan 'My Dog Matters' rewards program. Ideas!

redshasta over 3 years ago