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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Changes to bylaw

BYLAW NO. 7316
A Bylaw to Establish Provisions for Animal Welfare, Control, Licensing, Duties of Animal Owners,
Penalties, and Enforcement in the City of Nanaimo
There is no definition of PET and it is referred to many times.
Does a “PET” include reptiles, iguanas and fish?

“Pet” is used broadly throughout the document and needs clarification .
Page 2
Definition of choke collar .
PART 1, Section 2,Page 2 , Definitions
“Choke Collar”
means a slip collar or chain that may constrict around the animal’s neck
as a result of pulling on one end of the collar or chain and includes
pinch or prong collars, but does not include a martingale collar.
Reason to suggest changes

Please change the work ‘choke collar’ to its proper name ‘slip collar’.
The word choke is used to elicit an emotional response to the collar.
It is not used to choke a dog or cut off a dogs air supply, It is a training tool to help a dog learn and understand that it should not pull hard on the collar , The dog itself regulates how tight it is. If a dog does not pull or if it is uncomfortable the dog simple backs off and the collar is loose. It is not intended to be used to choke a dog.
Reason for suggested change . I suggest removing the prong collar and pinch collar from this definition of choke-slip collar because a prong collar is a type of ‘martingale collar’ and NOT a slip collar or choke collar. So as not to be confused, the prong collar should have a definition of its own, Here are the changes suggested.

Suggestion for wording change
Definition of Slip collar.
A slip collar is a section of chain or material with a ring at each end that may tighten or loosen around the animal’s neck as a result of a dog pulling or slacking off on the collar, but does not include a martingale collar.

Definition of prong collar: A prong collar or pinch collar, is a martingale style collar with metal prongs making up ¾ of the collar.

PART 1 Section 2 Page 3 Definitions
means a structure forming a pen suitable to confine the Animal being,
or intended to be, confined within the structure, and which meets any
dimensions required of a specific enclosure under this Bylaw.
This definition needs to be clarified because it is too open to personal interpretations since in this bylaw you are wishing to restrict the amount of hours a dog can be in an enclosure .
Is this a fenced yard? A fenced yard could fall under this definition!
Is it meant to be a kennel run? What differentiates a kennel run from a yard ?

“Owner” means, any Person
(a) to whom a licence for a Dog has been issued pursuant to this
(b) who owns, is in possession of, or has the care or control of any
Animal; or
(c) who harbours, shelters, permits or allows any Animal to remain on
or about the Owner’s land or premises.

Please add to this definition
d ) Is the Canadian Kennel Club , United kennel club or American kennel club registered owner.
e) is identified by microchip or tattoo, as the Owner of the animal.

Animal control and SPCA in the past and in other municipalities have rejected registration papers as proof of ownership. The Canadian Kennel Club is a national member-based non-profit organization and the primary registry for purebred dogs in Canada and as an adherent to the Animal Pedigree Act, operates under the auspices of Agriculture Canada.


schippmast about 3 years ago

The proposed Bylaw goes way too far. It is too severe, without proper checks & balances, and threatens the lives of animals with rapid termination. Euthanizing licensed and well cared-for animals should never be tolerated.

Killing animals after four days in a pound is not reasonable. The proposed definition of "reasonable effort" to contact is not clear enough, considering the consequences of no response. The proposed by law suggests that a mailed letter is considered a contact after three days. Our mail travels to and from the mainland and often takes much longer than three days to return to the island. A beloved lost animal could be killed before a letter is even delivered to the owner's address.

Encouraging owners to spay or neuter should be encouraged. However, cat spaying & neutering could, in fact, decline under the proposed Bylaw: why would a cat owner give shots, or sterilize an animal that never sees the sun? 

Cats roam by nature, they are part of the ecosystem, and some, if not most, belong outside. It is not possible to monitor their whereabouts constantly and it is as laughable to suggest cats will stay inside their yards. Is the city above nature? The proposed Bylaw also seems to ignore that dogs and cats are different. Cats do not bark, bite, or attack.

Nothing in the by-law stops a disgruntled neighbour from entering a private yard, removing an animal and taking it to the pound. In fact, the proposed Bylaw explicitly encourages this. (Section 91).

Finally, what about the cost? If the city can afford it within its current budget, then why are my taxes going up year over year? If not, then taxes must rise in order to pay for the proposed programs. Disturbingly, if the pound is a contracted private enterprise, that business is incentivized to capture & kill as manly animals as possible. None of these cases are ok.

The city has bigger fish to fry than a cut cull.   

Jeff R about 3 years ago

I agree with keeping cats indoors or on the ower's property. Almost every night my security camera shows cats wandering by my front door and spraying everywhere. They are responsible for the loss of many wild birds and are a problem in most gardens. We have to look after and clean up after dogs, and cat owners need to take the same responsibility for their pets. They should be licensed and controlled. It is a safety issue for cats too. I have heard people suggest many cruel ways to get rid of cats at large, and it's not the way anyone should deal with these problems. I know many people who keep their cats indoors and the cats are happy and safe, and the owners feel very positive about their decision to take such good care of their pets. I would follow the SPCA recommendations.

Judeville about 3 years ago

Some portions of this bylaw proposal warrant further consideration and revision before they become law: I cannot support a bylaw proposal that would allow a dog to be confined alone to an enclosure for 10 hours per day. I cannot support a bylaw proposal that would allow a dog to be tethered, unsupervised by its human guardians, for 2 hours within a 24 hour period, to a fixed object with only enough lead to let the dog stand, sit or lie down. I cannot support a bylaw proposal that does not ban choke, spike or shock collars. "The BC SPCA does not support the use of devices and techniques that cause anxiety, fear, distress, pain or injury, such as choke chains, prong and shock collars." An unsupervised tethered dog on a very short lead is vulnerable and likely anxious even on its home turf. Dogs are pack animals. Dogs are social animals. A dog's human guardians are the center of the dog's life. Dogs feel the same emotions that humans do. The sense of abandonment, loneliness, lack of security and safety when a dog is tied and alone on a short tether, or confined to a small space alone for extended periods will lead to emotional issues which may lead to behaviour issues. An anxious and protective dog will bark which is its nature. Kind interaction with caring humans and consistent teaching through non fear-based methods should be the responses to that , not a shock collar!

Stevie about 3 years ago

Leave the cats alone. There are always going to be super bitter/deranged property owners who call for extermination of and complain about cats being in their yard. Cats have the right to roam territory and be outside. They are not the same as dogs and can not be treated as such. Anyone who wants to call for cats to be locked away inside should try being locked away inside themselves. Our feline pets deserve to spend time outside as long as they are spaid/neutered and have their shots.

Maybe focus on getting the plethora of homeless people off the street and doing drugs on our school grounds before worrying about cats taking a dump in a garden.

Zach T about 3 years ago

I think the feral human problem is a bigger issue thant the feral cat problem.

Qwerty about 3 years ago

I don't think I'd be able to successfully transition my cat to an indoor cat and I might not be able to handle her energy if she did not have access to the outside to burn off some steam. I think it would be cruel to confine her and I can't guarantee I'd be able to handle the behavioural issues associated with a pent up cat. I think a lot of cats will be abandoned or surrended for these same reasons. I don't think I'd be willing to ever adopt another cat knowing I'd have to force them to live an unhealthy indoor-only lifestyle... It is well-documented that outdoor time is crucial for the healt of a cat. What the City is advocating for is animal abuse.

Qwerty about 3 years ago

I think we have bigger issues then cats roaming around. The city needs to focus on more important issues. Stop wasting time and money on things like this.

mmelody6 about 3 years ago

I totally disagree with restricting cats to stay indoors. My cat loves to go outside, no one in my neighborhood has ever complained. Actually my neighbours know my cat by name and love to say hi to him. He follows us whenever we go anywhere in the neighborhood and is a real community fixture. I would feel so sad having to keep him indoors, it would greatly reduce the quality of his life.
However I do agree with getting a license for a cat and making sure they are spayed or neutered.
The great thing about cats is that they are independent, come and go as they please and are ‘free’. My cat will be out exploring all night and then come home and cuddle on my bed or a cozy chair all day. I would probably choose not to have a cat again if they had to be kept indoors.
I also can’t imagine how this would be enforced.

Annwyn about 3 years ago

What a waste of taxpayer dollars hiring a "consultant" to create a divisive issue. With high unemployment, high city taxes, the Wuhan virus and overspending on municipal civil servants you create this issue. Historically cats have been allowed outside, making a bylaw does not change their behavior. Enforcement would be a problem without massive hiring of unnecessary municipal civil servants. . Dogs have been documented to kill other dogs, children, adults and endangered wildlife. Kittypets only kill unendangered mice and birds, also killed by man made forest fires and wind turbines.
Suggest you spend time debating how to get rid of municipal civil servants to reduce taxes.

mickyandphil about 3 years ago

The cat (Felis catus) is a domestic species of small carnivorous mammal. It is the only domesticated species in the family Felidae and is often referred to as the domestic cat to distinguish it from the wild members of the family. A cat can either be a house cat, a farm cat or a feral cat; the latter ranges freely and avoids human contact. Domestic cats are valued by humans for companionship.

My opinion is that responsible folks should be allowed to keep any number of "house cats" as long as they keep them inside their own home at all times and do not allow them access to property beyond their own. All "house cats" must be licensed! Spaying and neutering should be the pet-owners choice, however any cat allowed to roam free should be exterminated. I believe that free-ranging cats are vermin, as are rats, mice, racoons, and house sparrows. All should be exterminated! The bylaw must be zero-tolerance with a heavy fine for first offence along with confiscation and euthanization.

Get tough on irresponsible cat-owners, stop pussy-footing around (pun intended).

Disgruntled neighbours could possibly set-out poison.
Killing stray cats with Tylenol is "Humane", Audubon writer says.

Carol Wood (animal lover) of Nanaimo

Carol Gloria Wood about 3 years ago

You can't stop a cat from going where it wants to go.

zzthec about 3 years ago

I believe cats should follow the same rules as dogs. They should be licensed and controlled. Cats should not be wandering the neighborhood, killing small animals and destroying people's gardens/yards. It is a safety issue for cats too.
Our neighborhood is having problems with a home beyond packed with renters and sublets (a whole different issue) all of whom have cats that defecate all over everyone’s gardens. We have people filling their gardens with cayenne pepper which is dangerous to the cats. Out of frustration, one has threatened to trap the offending animals and drop them up island. This is cruel to the cats and a nuisance to the neighbors. Dogs are kept safe in their own yards, cats should be too. I worry about collars on cats but if they were inside a home or catio that wouldn’t be an issue.

Lunarchix about 3 years ago

The difference between a loose cats and loose dogs is very apparent to me. A dog will attack to protect an owner or property or its territory. The dog is loyal and protective, cats are independent creatures who are quiet and prefer to ignore the human being altogether. So when we ask that the dog be supervised and not let free to roam it is because dogs can be aggressive and harm other people. The cats will harm no one, may annoy some by using the garden bed for elimination, but will keep rats and mice scarce in the territories they travel.
If we begin treating cats like dogs no one would be sorrier and denied the essence of what it likes and needs than the cat.
I know we are a bit of a nanny civilization these days, attempting to make unnecessary rules to ensure the poor cats and empathetic pet owners have to suffer "rules" that have no business applying to them. There is no way an owner can keep a normal healthy cat inside; if a window door or opportunity to get out arises the cat is going to get out! The cat feels no shame in disobeying a human.
IMHO if it is decided that cats must be kept indoors (where they only belong when they are resting and bonding with their human families between adventures, or keeping out of the weather) wed be doing the cat a better kindness by forbidding humans to have them as pets at all. Domesticated doesn't mean stripped of the need for outdoor adventure that provides a far more natural diversion for them than those overpriced plastic indoor play toys. Becoming domesticated is simply what happens when a cat shares its down time with humans. If this cruelty to animals (caging the cats) becomes a thing let it be known that it is for the sake of song birds and other wee creatures they eat, and that they are aware it will do no good for the cat whatsoever. Nor for the humans who enjoy them for exactly what they are.
I'm dead set against the bylaw. And the expenses accrued in hiring people to chase the animals down might just break the bank, while the cold human who sleeps on the street instead of a safe warm bed is forced to live completely outdoors.
The humans are broken, the cats are happy as they are. If it isn't broken don't force taxpayers to fix it.

Gail about 3 years ago

I am not in support of this bylaw. It is too restrictive and invasive to ask of citizens and not in the best interest of the animal in most cases. Cats are not a danger to the public. Perhaps a nuisance....but so are deer and rabbits.
To protect cats, I do support identification and penalties for negligent owners. I support mandatory sterilization for free roaming outdoor pets. I would further support programs to educate the public on how to take care of an animal properly. We are all apart of nature and have a right to nature (and no, a patch of grass in a cat run is not nature). We need to find ways to respect the rights of animals to enjoy nature.

Jenna Pye about 3 years ago

I 100% agree w/ keeping cats indoors. My cats have always been indoor cats, for over 15yrs now. It's safer & healthier for them & other animals. They are not wild animals. They've been domesticated. It's not against their nature to be indoors, as I've seen some say. For those who do wish to risk letting their cats out, they're allowed to be on their property.

MBNanaimo about 3 years ago

I am all for spaying/neutering and ensuring cats are identified but keeping them contained to your that’s unrealistic. What’s also unrealistic is the price the city, I mean we the tax payers of Nanaimo paid for this consultation $24,850!! And it will only get more costly. In order to enforce cats being contained to their own property, the city will need to hire many more bylaw officers and or third party contractors to waste time and money catching these unruly cats. Nanaimo let’s focus on the larger issues at hand; homelessness, mental health and drug use and put our tax dollars to better use.

D20 about 3 years ago

I totally agree with the items put forth and feel it’s about time this happens. However, to be totally fair for pet owners, I feel cats should also have to be licensed and currently they are not! I realize this takes time, time like the present! A number of people in my community of 20 homes have cats and I know of three families for sure that let their cats wander the streets.....especially after midnight as the one is caught on our security cameras traipsing through our driveway and under cars. So, tell me what the difference is between this and a dog running free in the area.....other than the dog is 90% to be licensed whereas the cat is not! It’s been a beef of mine from day one in Edmonton and now in Nanaimo! Be fair and make it across the board!

Bndbndbn about 3 years ago

I agree to the recommendations of the new bylaw and it should be passed and implemented.
There are many communities that have the same stipulations regarding cat owners. They either stay inside or need to be confined to your property by a leash or enclosure. This is a very simple task.
Many times I have let out my dog in my backyard to be harassed by a wandering cat. And don’t forget the presents they leave in the garden and flower beds.

Eilhsa B about 3 years ago

I agree with spaying, neutering & permanent identification but to force cats to be kept indoors or only allowed outside on leashes is ridiculous, cruel and completely against their nature. A few cats may be content to stay indoors but most cats will end up suffering from depression, boredom and eventually obesity from lack of exercise & stimulation. Instead of wasting time and money trying to inflict draconian measures onto tax paying citizens how about this council actually do something useful like addressing the homeless and addiction problem, how about protecting us from the constant nightly trespassing and theft from our property, or the littering of dirty needles and human excrement in public places. As it seems they will do anything rather than address these human problems how about instead of attacking cat owners the council focus on Nanaimo’s disease carrying rat and raccoon problem, maybe they could spare a few dollars from their massive bike lane campaign and perhaps get their priorities into an order that’s beneficial for the whole city and not just a few on council.
I'd also like to know how you could threaten residents with fines for allowing their (spayed/neutered & microchipped) outdoor cats outdoors when this is all those cats have ever known. Especially at a time like this when we are all suffering untold effects and financial hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic. I can tell you now, there is no way my cat will stay indoors or wear a harness outdoors. I think he would literally claw a hole through the window to get out and I cannot afford to pay any fines. Unless, of course, I stop paying my property taxes.

Suznix1 about 3 years ago