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 do not own any pets, however I would not like to see cats being kept inside. They serve a good purpose for keeping the rodent population under control in some areas. It would be cruel and very difficult on the owners to suddenly make the cats have to stay inside. I'm not sure what licencing cats would accomplish. If a dog is at large, the licence is a way to reunite them with their owner. Cats should be at large and would therefore not require a licence as they under normal circumstances return home.

speabody over 3 years ago

I think that the proposed bylaw is a great step forward and is in line with best practices adopted by other municipalities. Pet owners should be responsible for their animals regardless of breed, and pets should not be freely roaming unsupervised. I am tired of watching nesting birds inevitably succumb to free-roaming cats in our neighbourhood, and I'm also tired of cleaning cat feces from my yard along with the smell of cat spray. There is no detriment to the proposed initiative.

CPark over 3 years ago

It would be impossible to restrict our cat from leaving our yard and torture to all of us to keep him indoors. ;-) He and other cats are living creatures that have rights to a quality of life and happiness. How about requiring that cat owners who allow their cats outside have an outdoor sand/litter box in their yard to deter the cat from going to the bathroom in other yards. I feel that this proposed bylaw is creating more divisiveness in our community at a time where we need to be even more unified than ever. Why not encourage neighbours to communicate and work together toward resolution? It's disappointing that the council has put valuable time, money, energy and resources toward this issue when so many other more pressing and important issues are yet to be resolved.

Shaeah over 3 years ago

I agree to the spray/neuter, also agree to the licencing of cats. Dislike cats in my yard but know most of them and if it got to be a real problem the owners would quickly deal with it. I don't think its fair for the cats that are already allowed out to all of a sudden be forced to be only indoors. I wouldn't put a cat on a line in the yard, have seen that backfire when dogs go by. Hopefully there will be some grandfathering of any new cat bylaws.

patmcarthur over 3 years ago

As a homeowner who does not own a pet, I support this bylaw. I believe that pet owners need to be responsible for their pets actions. My neighbourhood has many cats which run free throughout the neighbourhood digging up plants, defecting in other neighbours yards and hunting birds as well as mating (loudly) in the middle of the night. With an enforced bylaw regarding cats then cat owners will be required to be responsible for their pets as opposed to letting these animals run wild throughout the neighbourhood destroying/ intruding on other's property. A responsible owner is a good neighbor and if it takes a bylaw to ensure that pet owners are responsible, then so be it.

B. McEachen over 3 years ago

While I agree in part to limit the amount of pets, and spay or neuter, this is only to prevent hoarding situations and irresponsible owners . I have 4 rescued cats, all left behind when neighbors moved away. They are all inside, all spayed and neutered and well looked after. I would be devastated if one got out and it could very well happen in an emergency situation or if door accidentally left ajar by a repair person etc. I would not be impressed to be then charged for bylaw. Cats are curious, they don't always know what's good for them. The City of Nanaimo does not need to be in my house or in my business if I take in another rescue or feed a feral cat. Some of the reasons stated for the bylaw are ridiculous, like the kid that got ringworm from a cat they took in. First of all why did they not take it to the vet when they first took it in? A vet check likely would have found it. Ringworm is very contagious from cat, dog or another person.
I am a gardener and I agree, I do not like the neighbors cats in my garden pooping. In the winter I add straw to any freshly dug up planter boxes, discourages the cats. A little bit of chicken wire also helps keep them out. Motion water sprayers are also a deterrent to keep cats out.
You have enough bylaws that you are unable to keep up on. Why add more, especially one so ridiculous during a pandemic when more people need their pets for emotional support than they ever did.

Cat Momma over 3 years ago

Additionally I'd like to point out that indoor/outdoor cats tend to be healthier, since they can get fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and the universal cat medicine: blades of grass. Also, objections to outdoor cats come mainly from dog owners who are jealous and resentful of the relative freedom of cats. "I have to put my dog on a leash, why aren't cats leashed?" It's a silly question. Cats and dogs are different creatures and there are clear reasons biologically and socially for treating them differently. And the fact that cats sometimes bury their faeces in gardens (most use litter trays) pales into insignificance beside the widespread defecation by dogs in public places. I've never come across cat mess on sidewalks, on playgrounds, in parks, on beaches etc. etc. The bylaw as it stands has more than a whiff of the dog lobby about it. Requiring cats to be spayed and neutered is entirely reasonable. Beyond that leave them alone.

Calculon over 3 years ago

I agree with limiting the number of companion pets one has to curb animal hoarding. I think 4 dogs, 5 cats, and 4 small pets is reasonable, although I wonder what the rationale was for those specific numbers. I think the ban on rabbits should be lifted - they could be included as small pets like hamsters or gerbils.

I think mandatory ear tattoos or microchips for cats/dogs make sense for making it easier to identify/return lost or stolen pets. I think it is a bit overkill for rabbits though.

In regards to banning cats from roaming:
Even with a good fence, cats can still climb or jump. This means, many cats will be forced to stay indoors, because a fence might not be able to contain them. I think keeping a cat indoors for its entire life, especially for one that is already accustomed to the outside, is extremely cruel. It will also be hard to train an outdoor cat to be indoors only. Maybe there could be a ban on diseased cats at large? If the issue is diseased cats, keep those that are diseased quarantined. What about mandatory vaccinations instead of mandatory confinement? About the case where the boy contracted ringworm: he contracted it from a stray cat that was brought into their home from a property that had many feral cats. The cat was not vet-checked or treated before being exposed to the child. In my opinion, the ringworm infection in the child was the fault of negligence on the part of the parent. It is not fair to judge or punish responsible pet-owners or healthy cats for the parental negligence of one person and someone else’s diseased feral cat. If the issue is animal cruelty or cat-napping, then the issue lies with the animal-abuser. We need to do better to find and prosecute those individuals. It should be the onus of the gardener to make their garden animal-proof. How do they plan on stopping the birds, squirrels, rats, or mice from getting into their garden if they can’t keep cats out? The cats would help keep the rats out at least and I’d bet you that if someone’s property is frequented by cats, they probably have rats which is attracting the cats and they need a good mouser roaming about... even if a cat is not a good mouser, their presence alone will help to deter vermin. People have kept cats for millennia to help keep disease-carrying vermin at bay. Are you going to punish someone who tries to keep their cat indoors, but she escapes?

Mandatory spay/neuter.
I think it should be the choice of the pet owner if/when their pet is neutered or spayed. Their is evidence to suggest that early spay/neuter can lead to development issues and even an increased risk of certain cancers in cats and dogs. Spay/neutering is also expensive, so to impose the cost onto pet owners is unfair unless you want to pay for it. If they’re able to keep their pet separate from others, they shouldn’t have to neuter/spay. The owner may also choose to breed their animal. I think that responsible breeding is okay. Will breeders be exempt from mandatory spay/neuter policies? Maybe, their could be some sort of licensing for that if it’s such a concern.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

I unfortunately suspect that this opportunity for public input is all for show and that none of the concernes will actually be taken into consideration. I believe council has already made up their minds and this is only so they can say, "we opened it up to public input."

Qwerty over 3 years ago

Personally, I think confining cats to indoors only - never to set their paws on the bare earth, to feel the sun on their fur, or to breathe in fresh air - is abuse... especially for cats already accustomed to going outside. In my opinion, these intelligent creatures need the stimulation that only being outside can provide in order to thrive. You also get the added benefit of vermin-control... The argument council is proposing is that cats spread disease and kill songbirds, but you have to realize that Nanaimo has so many invasive rats already which are far worse carriers for disease, cause real damage to property, attack songbirds and steal their eggs - they cause more damage than a cat ever could. Even if your cat is not a good mouser, their presence alone can help to deter vermin. They cite one case of a negligent mother bringing in a diseased stray, not quarantining it, having it vet-checked, or treated and then introducing it to their todler who contracted ringworm from this feral cat as a reason to ban all cats from roaming. I don't know about you, but my cat is fully vaccinated, dewormed, and premptively treated for fleas... How about we make vaccinations mandatory before reducing the quality of life for indoor-outdoor cats. Of course, if you choose to keep yours indoors, that is your choice; but I think it is cruel for it to be mandatory.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

I do not support this bylaw as it relates to cats. (1) It's based on merely anecdotal evidence, some of it extreme and exceptional, such as the submission by Leon Davis of the SPCA regarding a family with 12 cats whose child got ringworm. This is hardly a normal example of cat ownership. Dramatic exceptions do not make for good legislation. (2) Most indoor/outdoor cats do not wander but mark their territory and stay within it. In fact, indoor-only cats are more liable to go missing and wander because they haven't marked their territory. All the other concerns about cats decimating bird and other populations (other than rodents) are merely emotional, often based on urban myths. Windows kill more small birds than cats do. (3) Such a bylaw is unenforceable and will merely empower some individuals to take punitive action against cats by trapping them or worse. In short, cat welfare is not well served by this hastily conceived bylaw. As for dogs, I'm concerned by the apparent inclination to back away from designating certain breeds as dangerous. I also see no reference to the growing tendency for non-service dogs to be welcomed in stores, which is unhygienic and particularly unacceptable during the current pandemic.

Calculon over 3 years ago

There are many animals who have lived their lives as indoor/outdoor pets and this bylaw will effect their mental health, it can lead to obesity, and poor health in cats. Being solely indoors can pose as much risk to their lives as being an outdoor cat can.
I recently put my last cat down. She never left our yard and we could watch her on camera. She didn't hunt because she was cross eyed. She didn't ruin other peoples gardens because she never left the yard. Not all cats are like that though.
I propose that instead of forcing all cats indoors a compromise could be made. Force all owners to register their cats with tags and a photo of the animal on file, including any tattoos, or distinguishing markings. Then allow neighbors to file a complaint about a certain animal. If the animal is a nuisance pet them proceed with fines and options for the pet owner to relinquish the pet, move the pet indoors or build it an outdoor enclosure, or face further action such as fines, etc.
I think this is a happy compromise that most citizens would be on board with. Instead of making it so black and white allow for discretion.

Melanie Larocque over 3 years ago

I 100% support the enforcement through $150 fines to dog owners who let their dogs off leash in on leash areas. I am a dog owner. I walk my dog on leash in on leash areas and I know that having some dogs on leash and some dogs off leash often causes confrontational behaviour between the dogs. It's not fair that I'm following the rules and others who aren't cause problems for me walking my dog. I also take my dog to off leash parks and to a dog day care for off leash fun with other dogs. I don't agree that our dogs need to be allowed to roam at will in the wild because that's what their wild canine cousins do. Their wild cousins have shorter life spans and run into more dangers because they roam at will. We owe it to our family pets to protect them from the dangers of the wild. Furthermore, we owe it to the wild animals that live in on leash areas to keep our dogs away from them. Animal lovers will agree that wild animals should have the right to be protected like we protect out beloved family pets. I have NEVER seen a bylaw enforcement officer issuing a ticket to a non-compliant dog owner. It's about time!

Clamb over 3 years ago

I have no problems with the bylaw as written.
I keep my dogs on my property, or on a leash, excepts at an off leash dog park. They are licensed and vaccinated. This should also pertain to cats. Cat owners should be as responsible for their pets as dog owners need to be. At-large pets are a problem regardless of species
Furthermore, I am immune suppressed, and toxoplasmosis from cat feces is a REAL health danger for me.
People's cats using my fenced yard's extensive gardens as a toilet has real-life implications.
Thank you

haftadance over 3 years ago

I fully support a bylaw to require pet cats to stay in the house. I know many people who have indoor cats. They are happy, healthy family members. The cats are protected from eating and catching viruses from sick birds or rodents, being attacked by wildlife or other domestic pets, or being hit by a car. Our domestic pets do not need to be able to do 'natural' activities to be healthy and happy. In fact, many 'natural' activities shorten the life span or quality of life of wild animals. It is our responsibility to protect our beloved pets from dangerous activities they could encounter in the outdoors. Further to this, domestic cats are a danger to wildlife, such as songbirds. We need to consider the well being of all animals, domestic and wild.

Clamb over 3 years ago

I understand and agree with most of the proposed changes to this bylaw, with the exception of all cats being kept inside unless on a leash.

Having owned and known numerous cats, there are some that will happily live indoors and others that will stop at nothing to get outside. If you disagree, then you do not understand cats.
I agree that all cats let outside should be spayed/neutered, and should be trackable with a tattoo or microchip. But making a law that all cats must be kept indoors will simply result in hundreds of cats being brought to the SPCA because families will be unable to care for them under the new laws and will not want to risk multiple fines.

In addition, I would be interested in knowing how many more animal control officers will be hired to deal with the increase in domestic calls to pick up unlawful cats, as well as how large the new animal control facility will be that will need to be built to contain all of these out of control cats that will be detained.
Please have the increased amounts to our budget properly laid out when this is tabled again to council in the new year.

Please also put aside public land to create cat parks with a minimum fence height of 16 feet, to allow my cat the opportunity to be off leash and to exercise sufficiently so he does not fall prey to the obese cat epidemic.

I would also like put forth into this new bylaw that all wildlife be prohibited from entering my private property, including all songbirds. The birds entice my cat, creating havoc in my household, and bears, cougars and raccoons put my dog and children at risk. Sorry, does that sound difficult or preposterous? Because it is.

Roto over 3 years ago

I completely agree that our pets should be vaccinated, identifiable as well as spayed and neutered. The roaming bit of the bylaw goes too far. I have rescued/adopted 2 adults cats in my time as a home owner. The first one was abandoned at my place of work. My current rescue was abused by his former owners, not an eagle or coyote. They enrich our lives and enhance our well being. My cat does have access to the outdoors and I always take the best care of him. When I am away I arrange for him to be looked after. Turning outdoor cats to inside cats (which is basically what this would do) is not the business of the city. I still clean up neighbourhood dog droppings from my front lawn even when they ARE on a leash, I suppose I should start calling the city to do this.

mermaid.dawn over 3 years ago

The provision to restrict outdoor cats is a bad idea for a number of reasons.
Allowing property owners to trap animals and call the pound will lead to potentially violent confrontations between neighbors. As for cat owners who already have outdoor cats, many will simply choose to surrender their animals to the shelter. As you know, Nanaimo does not have a no kill shelter. This will lead to hundreds of animals being put down. Animal control services in Nanaimo are contracted out to 3rd party providers. The enforcement costs of this bylaw will almost certainly require double or triple the costs of those contracts. This is not money well spent by council in a global health pandemic. Not to mention the hundreds of cat owners who will be faced with surrendering their animals to avoid tickets. This is incredible burden on people who may already be in distress due to covid 19. This is not the time to implement this bylaw causing a significant rise in city spending and causing people to surrender their comfort animals. Council needs to focus it's effort on pandemic measures.

Coolduck72 over 3 years ago

This is so stupid I have a cat that is not confined to the house and will not lock him up as catches the rats in his yard and lane ,,But go ahead lock up all the cats and the city will be over ran by rats or will this be a job for bylaws out 24-7 catching rats instead of bullying people....

Tanya over 3 years ago

I 100% support the bylaw that requires cats to be kept indoors or outdoors on a leash. This protects our birds and the ecosystem, and it keeps the cats themselves from harm. Dogs are not permitted to roam at large; what makes it “ok” for cats to be allowed to? I have spent the past three years watching my neighbours cats roam the neighbourhood, cleaned their feces out of my garden beds, disposed of hummingbird & other small bird corpses, and listened to them fighting with other strays in our backyard. My concern for their safety did not stop the neighbours from continuously letting the cats roam (even when on holiday); if anything, letting the cats out all day or night seems rather neglectful as a pet owner. I’ve owned cats and they were strictly indoor only. If you don’t like the idea of keeping a cat indoors then my suggestion would be to not own a cat at all.

vanislecommunitymember over 3 years ago