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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I'm not enthused about a limit to the number of pets in an urban centre. Correlation is not causation. We already have bylaws that cover poor treatment of pets or lack of control (although they're pretty flimsy and we don't have enough ACOs, in my opinion, to really enforce many of them). If animals are causing a problem, then that problem should be addressed. * * * * * * In many cases, it's not an animal problem; it's an animal problem caused by a person. Control that person. I have yet to see someone who is careless about their animals causing harm or being poorly kept who isn't causing problems in other ways for their community, so getting to *them* and helping *them* is the key to solving a number of issues that they could be involved with.

redshasta over 3 years ago

I support removing Breed-Specific Legislation completely. The argument of nature vs. nurture will continue for millenia, but *management* is what determines if a dog is a danger to another dog. This depends on the owner's knowledge of dogs in general and their dog in particular. The greatest danger IMO are the owners who think their dogs being 'friendly' entitles them to rush up to other dogs and children and strangers without clear permission from the target.

redshasta over 3 years ago

I support the creation of a program that both rewards people for getting licences and also rewards them for complying with the law. *** apparently this form doesn't like paragraphs, so asterisks it is **** For instance, if you have someone with a dangerous dog, it's often the case that there will be resistance to paying for a licence and controlling their dog. Perhaps they would be more likely to control their dog if they had the option of getting a discount on the licence if they attend animal behaviour/ownership classes or show proof of getting a trainer to help them work with their dog (for this purpose, we would have to determine what a trainer is and who can designate themselves a trainer). ***** Things that I have seen in other municipalities is a discount from participating businesses if a dog owner comes in with proof of licencing or a free dog toy or something. **** Even non-pet-focused businesses might participate if they get more business from the pet-owning public in return. Canadian Tire, for instance, allows dogs; maybe they could be convinced to participate in a community program. **** is a study that examines the effect of early puppy socialization classes on reducing aggression in dogs. If the City has a program that rewards owners for participating in obedience, activity, or socialization classes, it could greatly improve all-around awareness of dog behaviour and prevent harmful incidents.

redshasta over 3 years ago

I see on the Animal Control Service Review the following statement:

"City staff report that the number of FTEs dedicated to the Animal Control Service
has remained essentially unchanged since 1986, despite a doubling of the City's
population in the years since that time. This finding is not necessarily, in and of itself, a valid reason to increase staffing levels. The finding does, however, highlight the need to consider the possibility that additional resources may be warranted."

This report is essentially saying that the City has doubled in population and that isn't enough - by itself - to warrant staffing changes.

The Animal Control Service Review Recommendations do recommend another full-time ACO position be funded, but is this really enough?

If the population has doubled, consider doubling the ACO positions. The cost may seem high, but consider spending money to prevent incidents from becoming worse is usually lower cost than spending money to address them.

This is a service job that puts a person at risk of being attacked by animals and humans, being cursed at, being maligned both online and face-to-face, and having to deal with suffering and dead animals. It is a high-stress job. It comes at a personal cost.

Having too few ACOs and too little funding also contributes to the inability to attend an incident in a timely manner, insufficient time to fill out paperwork, the inability to interact with the community to enact positive change, and too-high demands on present staff.

redshasta over 3 years ago

Will the city consult at all with what the vets and the SPCA think? They likely have better informed ideas based on experience.

Catharine Bird over 3 years ago

This bylaw is completely back to front. Do cats leave their faeces in public places, sidewalks, playgrounds, parks? Do cats run up and jump at you? Do they rush out from rural properties when you're walking past or delivering something? Do cats bite? Do cats kill dogs and other pets? Do letter carriers complain about cats being loose? What would you rather encounter, a cat or a pitbull? But let's ignore the nuisance and even danger posed by dogs and bear down on cats. Let's pander to the cat-poo-and-songbirds brigade, keeping cats inside and letting dogs go everywhere, even stores.

Calculon over 3 years ago

I completely agree with this bylaw. Cats that are left to roam suffer horrendous injuries, abuse and death. Cats left uncontrolled cause numerous issues such as killing birds at an alarming rate, digging in people's gardens to defecate and urinate and largely contribute to the growing feral cat population. Every animal that is someone's pet must be responsibly taken care of; leashed, controlled and kept within the boundaries of their human's property. So often I suspect a cat might be lost but knowing how many are left to roam unfettered, I do not take the steps to help (as I would with a dog). Letting cats roam free is animal abuse and needs to stop.

Deborah over 3 years ago

If neutering/spaying rabbits becomes mandatory, I do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on each of my rabbits to have them neutered/spayed. I keep them all separate, so there is 0 risk of breeding unless I intentially mate them. Although I have had a couple litters in the past, I do not plan on having any here until I eventually get a rural property. My one buck is already 6. He is the one I own as a pet, but I would have to consider adopting him out if I was forced to neuter, especially since his life expectancy is only about 3 more years and it seems like throwing money into the wind at that point... I also think it would be hard to adopt out an older rabbit. He has already gone through 2 other owners. I would probably take my two does to my dad's rural property to cull/eat. And my prized harlequin buck, I would put under the care of my dad until I move somewhere that is more animal-friendly than Nanaimo. Good luck forcing me to have him neutered. I also spent hundreds of dollars and many hours of my time to build a nice big rabbit enclosure with multiple levels and ramps in between, so this all really upsets me. It's unfortunate too, because I feed my rabbits from my garden and veggie scraps and add their poop back to the garden. I had a really good system going for reducing food waste, and sustainably disposing of weeds/scraps, and building good organic soil for my vegetable garden - rather than importing unethical fish compost or chicken manure which if it comes from a cramped industrial farm, is unethical too - and I can't confirm that it was organically produced. By introducing mandatory neuter/spay of rabbits, you will be forcing me to rehome 2 rabbits and to cull 2. You will also reduce the environmental sustainability of my garden and make it more expensive for me to mainatain it.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

There are some aspects of the bylaw that I agree with- with respects to spaying/neutering pets and having them registered.
I don't agree with not allowing cats to roam. This is because;
1) Nanaimo already has a rodent problem, I would fear seeing this get worse and that that will then have an impact on the bird population as they eat rodents who have ingested rat poison.
2) There are clever ways to keep cats out of gardens if people cared to do their research. Cats hate cinnamon, citrus, essential oils and nut shells.
3) Its cruel towards cats. Yes, it is higher risk life for cats, but what is a life worth living if you don't have your freedom? Cats can't be take out to parks and beaches etc like dogs. They can't be leash trained. They rarely roam far. A responsible pet owner would make sure their pets are up to date with vaccinations, and a bylaw around that, I would support. That's the reality of pet ownership, regardless if it is a cat or dog.
All of my cats in my life have been indoor /outdoor cats. None have died of infectious disease or injury as a result this lifestyle. They all lived to be happy seniors, one as old as 21!

MegH over 3 years ago

The domestic cat is a predator that fills a previously unoccupied niche in North America. Birds, small mammals and reptiles evolved here without this type of predator so they have pretty much no natural defence. Add to that the fact that cats are not subject to normal predator-prey oscillations, if prey numbers are low, they go home and eat from a bowl. Whether or not it really is 2.4 billion birds killed is not as relevant as the fact they are having serious impacts on wildlife populations. We talk a lot about controlling the effects of introduced species, but here is one we turn a blind eye to. I completely agree with all the proposals, this can't happen soon enough.

Tom Luscher over 3 years ago

I have seen outdoor cats turned to indoor cats who become fat and depressed. Obesity and depression are big issues for indoor cats as well as getting into trouble because they may not have a proper release for their energy. It is cruel to keep these smart and active creatures confined.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

My neighbours love my cat. She only seems to really go between my yard, the alley, and my neighbours' who have a little girl that adores my cat.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

I agree with others who have voiced concerns that a ban on outdoor cats will lead to more cats being surrendered. My cat is right piece of work unless she gets ample outdoor time to burn off steam. She mostly stays within the yard, but does wander into the alley. I don't know if I could handle her high energy or whining to go outside (she is very vocal) unless I could let her out to be stimulated. No matter how much I play with her, it is not the same as the benefits to her health and mood by going outside.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

Although I agree with most of the recommendations, I think the idea of indoor cats should be reconsidered. I have owned 18 outdoor cats over the course of my lifetime. In my experience they do not have a drastic impact on birds. Yes, they occasionally kill a bird but if we were to eliminate the causes of bird death then windows in high rises or just window in general should also be eliminated. I also noted that one concern is cats killing birds at bird feeders. Why is it ok to feed wild birds? It’s generally not acceptable to feed any wildlife. It makes them dependant on us humans. It seems to me that we feed birds so we can enjoy there presence. A mutually beneficial situation. Yes, some get birds get eaten by cats, but this reminds me of how cats got domesticated in the first place. We offered shelter and cuddles on demand and they kept the rodents at bay. Yes, some get hit by cars.

Cats by nature are nocturnal and I think it would be very difficult to wander around my yard at night with my cat on a leash. I also think he would not get as many rats.

Spay and neuter yes. Chip identification yes. Let people decide if they want to take the risk of their cats living shorter lives. Most people make reasonable decisions. My daughter lives in downtown victoria and has chosen to have indoor cats. I live near Linley valley with tons of rats and mice and would rather let my cat enjoy his natural instincts even if he statistically may live a shorter life. We are all so regulated as it is and sometimes I think we need to take a step back. Enforcing in door cats seems like one of those fights that would be better off abandoned for more concerning problems. Homelessness, drugs, low income, the climate, mental health etc.

Let’s spend more time and money on bigger problems and less time micro-managing.

Thank you for allowing input on this matter.

Christine Farenholtz

cfarenholtz over 3 years ago

I agree with all components of this bylaw.

We adopted an 8 yr old cat from the SPCA last year. She used to be an outdoor cat but got into so many fights with other outdoor cats. She also had recurring UTIs which require a special diet which meant no other sources of food. We agreed to keep her as an indoor cat. She does go out into our backyard with us on a harness and leash. She loves to be outside and chew grass and watch birds. Turning an outdoor cat into an indoor cat can be done. Outdoor cats have shorter lives, being at risk for disease transmission, accidents with vehicles and fights with other animals (cats, raccoons, coyotes, foxes). My sister lives in Kitsilano and their indoor/outdoor cat was torn apart by a coyote. Cats also have a detrimental impact on song birds. We have a vegetable garden and are continually coming across cat feces from roaming neighborhood cats. Cat feces harbors toxoplasmosis which can have serious effects on women who are pregnant. If outdoor cats would defecate solely in their own yards, that would be one thing, but they don't. Neighboring cats also spray their signs around our backyard and at our patio door which stresses out our cat, to the point that she is sometimes too scared to go out the door. Indoor cats can lead enriching and safe lives... Safety not just for them but for neighboring animals, birds and humans. While I love to say Hello to the regular wandering cats I see in our neighbourhood, I think the new bylaw is a great idea.

Microchipping of pets is another great idea. As I understand it, most stray cats who end up at the pound or SPCA are never reunited with their owners because of a lack of ID. It sometimes seems as if some people treat cats with cavalier disregard. Cat doesn't come home? Oh well.

As for limiting the number of dogs. Another great idea. We had a neighbour with 6 or 7 or 8 Jack Russell terriers. They were a yammering nightmare. It didn't help that the owner fed them raw meat and threw meat and bones off the deck into the backyard for them to fight over. At night the rats would have a field day. And I have never seen an outdoor cat bring home a dead rat... dead birds yes. Mice yes. But rats? Never.

Responsible pet ownership should be encouraged. I have had one indoor/outdoor cat who had at least 4 major outdoor accidents. I have also had two indoor cats from kitten hood (with supervised outdoor time). We now have a cat who used to be indoor/outdoor and is now indoor. Indoor with outdoor enrichment via supervised backyard outings is the way to go.

GigiJ over 3 years ago

I see feedback regarding cats that catch birds but in that same feedback there is no mention of the rats, and rabbits that they help control the population of within the city. If we didn't have outdoor cats we would have a rodent problem.

Pmander over 3 years ago

I agree with the section regarding restricted dog breeds, BSL is out of date and proven ineffective. I don't agree with the section on cats at large. I'm unsure what the reason for this recommendation is, but I think this is a choice that should be made by the owners and not the city.

Aizeah over 3 years ago

I am a current owner of two cats and until last year I had three. All are spayed or neutered. Due to a life change I had to keep all three inside for approximately eight months while I moved homes. All three had been indoor / outdoor cats until this move . One became so severely depressed after being forced to stay in that she became very ill and eventually had to be put down. My remaining two are now allowed back outside in the morning and they come in every night before bedtime. They don't wander far from home. If an animal has never been out it's one thing but to all of a sudden take away their freedom after years of being allowed outside is devastating for them. I'm not against licensing but I don't think they need to be kept inside 100% of the time or on a leash.

Pmander over 3 years ago

I am so glad to see a bylaw addressing cats being kept within properties. Cats are such an invasive species and decimate bird populations. There are many ways to allow a cat time outside while complying with the bylaw.

TracyD over 3 years ago

I support the new bylaw. I’m a longtime victim of cat poo in my garden. Cat owners have gotten away with this for too long. I have also seen many cats killed on roads. I would support grandfathering of cats that can not be home trained but anyone getting a new pet cat must keep it in.

BobMcCauley over 3 years ago