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.

Consultation has concluded
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Thank you for giving me an opportunity to provide my views on the city bylaw that is being considered for all cat owners in Nanaimo.

Let me first start by telling you about my circumstances. I have two beautiful, happy and well cared for cats. My female cat is spayed and male cat is neutered. They go to the vet regularly have all their updated shots including leukaemia. I live on Halliburton Street near the Mill. This area is infested with mice/rats and I find at least one dead one by my front as a present from my cats on a daily basis. I have a large yard that gives my outdoor cats lots of space to enjoy.

I have many concerns about making this bylaw pertain to all cat owners as each cat and owner have different circumstances so this bylaw may have to vary depending on their circumstances.

It is unsafe to put cats on leashes as may become prey to many other animals such as hawks, cougars, raccoons, dogs and people which would leave them vulnerable and not able to protect themselves. They can also accidentally hang themselves when on a leash.

This bylaw should not be the same as dogs as their are completed different animals. Cats provide a very important service to the City of Nanaimo, being a Port City, to help maintain the rodents situation.

Peoples gardens are an issue with animals and always have been. If there was not a cat issue there would still be a garden issue. Cats are not the number one issue with gardens as deer, rabbits, squirrels, rodents and other animals cause way more problems. Gardeners like myself have to ensure these areas are blocked off from all animals including rodents etc.

To finalize my comments I would like to say that if an individual that owns an animal which may include a cat does not properly look after by being spayed or neutered unless for breeding and maintain its health to ensure not spreading decease then a new city bylaw may pertain to that person.

TheCatWhisperer about 3 years ago

I am extremely surprised that the mayor and council entertains such a policy in the middle of a pandemic. People are stressed and struggling right now without having to worry about having to keep an outdoor cat indoors. I also think it is poor timing by the SPCA.
I agree with spaying, neutering and being allowed a set number of animals: however I am totally against not allowing cats to roam. It is totally unreasonable for you to expect me to treat my cat like a dog and take it for a walk then tie it up outside? I honestly believe you are being cruel suggesting that cats cannot roam and hunt which is what they are meant to do. Do you have a plan for rodent population control once the cats are no longer hunting? Cats are very good at escaping and if you try and keep an outdoor cat indoors it will find a way to escape.
I just want to state that I am strongly opposed to this regulation of cats not being allowed off the owners property and hope that you reconsider this

wisewoman about 3 years ago

Dear Mayor, counselors, and staff,

I have several concerns, questions, and points with regards to the proposed bylaw which I will address in no particular order.

Cats at large:
What is the cities plan for the increased rodent population as a result of this bylaw?
The bylaw does not contain any regulations regarding sizing, setbacks, shelter, ventilation, etc. for "catios" or cat enclosures which will be required for containing cats on ones property. Further to this, any regulations must take into account semi feral cats members of the public have adopted for rodent control, etc. that cannot be kept indoors for the wellbeing of the cat at anytime due to the anti-social nature of these particular cats.
How does the city propose those people who have indoor outdoor cats that will aggressively try to get outside address the issue of their cat escaping despite best efforts. Personally I have a cat who will bust through screens and charge the door anytime it is open and despite my best efforts I have never been successful in keeping him in.

Restrictions on number of pets:
There appears to be no grandfather clause. Is the city proposing people over the 6 companion pet limit be forced to rehome their pets? If so, will the city be compensating me for my financial loss as a result (purchase price alone for my pets totals over $10,000 which could not be recouped upon rehoming)? Do they plan to hold my children while they cry because they forced them to give up their pets?
Has the city considered allowing over the 6 companion animals upon an application (with a fee) to animal control, with or without a home inspection to insure there are no animal welfare or hoarding situations going on as a compromise?

Amiller about 3 years ago

I strongly oppose any regulation to cats being allowed outside or off owners property. This will just make it more inconvenient for cat owners, and get honest people tickets. Anyone who thinks it is fair to write a by law that says a cat can go outside but has to stay on your property isn't being honest or fair. They should just say, cat's can't go outside or you'll get a ticket. Please if you implement this, my cat will go crazy, crying to get outside. I won't be able to keep the cat. It will definitely make me want to move out of this town.

Nanaimo Family about 3 years ago

I don't currently own birds, but have in the past and had 9 zebra finches. They are small birds and breed quickly. I would never have described this as a hoarding situation. I agree that 4 parrots might be plenty. Breed-specific numbers would help this bylaw to make more sense. Thank you for considering this. I am sure you can get expert help in regard to specific breed numbers.

crowhurstfamily about 3 years ago

People may not wish to spay/neuter their pets for spiritual/religious reasons.

Qwerty about 3 years ago

I can't imagine the cats are bothering the turtles at Buttertubs marsh lol. And they have a hard shell to protect them... The rats would be more likely to dig up and eat the turtle eggs than a cat hunting turtles smh.

Qwerty about 3 years ago

From the Proposal: A Person must not: or (b) exercise a Dog by allowing it to walk or run next to a bicycle, unless the Dog is attached to the bicycle by an apparatus that allows the Person to retain two-handed control of the bicycle at all times. I would like to see this changed to (b) A person must not exercise a Dog by allowing it to walk or run next to a moving bicycle unless the person is also walking or running beside the moving bicycle. Dogs on or off leashes need to be allowed to interact with the environment, to sniff around and explore and relieve themselves, when on walks or runs with their people. They need to be able to run freely sometimes in safe areas. Even with the "correct equipment" a dog attached to a moving bicycle is not safe in traffic. Owners are sometimes oblivious to the fact that their dog is exhausted as they try to please; panting; overheated; may be limping; does not have the ability or fitness level to run at high speed for long periods of time; or may be enduring anxiety from uncertainty and traffic noise and unpredictability and/or discomfort as paws are exposed to hot asphalt or pavement. Realizing that some dogs may love this, and that owners do not intend to put the dogs in danger, I still think that it is a practice that is taking a chance with the safety of a dog.

Stevie about 3 years ago

I oppose the prohibition of roaming cats in the proposed bylaw. It is unreasonable and unrealistic. I believe the bylaw needs to be amended.

JBP about 3 years ago

'"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." Could Animal Responsibility Bylaw Proposal include wording to prohibit choke chains, prong and shock collars?

Stevie about 3 years ago

It's important for everyone who has a pet as a companion to be responsible and keep them safe and secure as well as being responsible to the neighborhood. I believe the majority of people do.
Any changes to the bylaw should be to ensure the health, safety and security of our pets, taking into consideration that each species is different and will require a different set of requirements and/or restrictions, not for the appeasement of a minority.
As these changes to the Animal Responsibility Bylaw is a "complaint based" initiative, just how many written complaints have there been with respect to roaming cats, noisy cats, cat feces, or other cat issues?

CJRO about 3 years ago

I don't think it is unreasonable to expect cat owners to have identification for their cats and to have their cats spayed/neutered. That is just part of being a responsible pet owner. However, I do think it's completely unreasonable for cat owners who have adult cats that already go outside to completely turn that animals life upside down and force it to either be a fully indoor cat, or else be confined outdoors. Most adult cats do not accept change easily, and will not take to walking on a leash, or being confined to a "catio". Tying a cat to a clothesline or a tree is very dangerous for many reasons. Taking the freedom to roam outdoors from an indoor/outdoor cat, will only lead to depression in the cat. It is too sudden of a transition. And for that reason, I believe the bylaw needs to be amended.

MysticFaerie about 3 years ago

I approve of this bylaw. Neighborhood cats using my garden as a litterbox is very frustrating. As is listening to these cats fighting at night. These are not feral cats causing these issues where i live. I feel that cat owners have just as much responsibility for their animals as dog owners. My dogs are not allowed to roam. They are in their yard or on a leash at all times. Cats should be no different.

Shelliew123 about 3 years ago

"> 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."

This line in particular seems to have been written by someone who doesn't understand and/or hates cats. What it's asking for is an impossible task. Unlike dogs, a cat cannot be "under the immediate charge and control " of anyone. They are independent creatures that tend to keep to themselves and run away if startled. Unlike dogs, that will often have the first instinct to attack and bite people. Outdoor spayed and neutered cats are at worst a manageable minor nuisance and people should find a simple solution to their personal issue instead of abusing the power of the government to deal with it. If someone doesn't want cats in their yard, then they need to do what every other animal species does, and put out a scent to ward them off. Cats are sensitive to many smells that we find pleasant, so if a person is lucky enough to have a yard of their own then they can put out plants to let the cat know they aren't welcome there. As for the issue of songbirds, it's sad to see them killed but we need to keep in mind that cats also take care of other animals that are far less appealing to have around. Since birds fly they are difficult to catch and only count for about 2% of a cat's kills. About 70% of birds killed are from unowned cats who actually need to hunt to survive. A domestic cat that hunts out of instinct is more likely to go for easier prey, so this regulation would mainly decrease the amounts of pests caught without saving very many birds.

teforrest about 3 years ago

I fully support this bylaw. We are falling in line with what a number of other progressive minded communities have already done. Thank you!

jeffsl about 3 years ago

Moral, social and compassionate reasons associated with opposition to any sudden enforcement for currently roaming pet cats aside:
Less cats=more rats =more poison=less raptors=more rats=less small birds

Stevie about 3 years ago

I think the proposed bylaw is a good idea. As a biologist that works with conservation issues, and as a dual citizen of Australia where we see the impact of non-native domestic and feral animals, it is extremely important to control pets so that they don’t become a nuisance or contribute to stray populations. I live near Buttertubs, an area the city invests in for bird conservation, an area where active western painted turtle conservation occurs, yet there are large numbers of cats roaming this area. It seems quite ironic to not protect the money invested in this conservation area.

The most common complaints against this bylaw are not particularly strong or compelling. They are mostly focused on the control of cats. They include:
1) Cats control rodents so they are ok to be outside. Sure, they do, but they also kill numerous other species. Many credible studies worldwide have proven this. Small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects etc. Cats hunt. Unless controlled, they will continue to do so.
2) Outdoor cats cannot live inside. Yes they can. It may be annoying and frustrating for cat owners to go through a transition with the cat, but given enough physical and mental stimulation, cats can adjust. It means work for the owner. Owners of other pet types are forced to provide this care as part of the responsibility of owning the pet. It can be done for cats too.
3) Cats don’t hunt for fun. They do actually. Again, many credible studies worldwide have demonstrated that cats will hunt for reasons other than food. No matter how well fed a pet cat may be, it is still likely hunting and killing something.
4) The city is wasting money/time. I understand why this is a complaint given the many other issues in the community. However, this bylaw is relatively easy to implement. There are already protocols in place for other domestic species. This bylaw has the capacity to effect real environmental change with little real financial investment. In addition, the registration process will generate revenue which will likely help in providing solutions for some of the other issues in the community.
Ultimately, if there are regulations around one pet type, they should be applied equally to all pet types. The complaints/concerns around this bylaw do seem to stem largely from cat owners in relation to the effort that may be required by them to ‘control’ the cat. It can be done and the cats can be happy.

JasmineJanes about 3 years ago

Cat owners who currently let their well cared for, spayed or neutered cats roam are not the cause of the over- population problem. Ignorance and a lack of education and lack of responsibility with respect to animals and to pet ownership is the problem. It is not okay to allow a cat to have a litter so that children can experience witnessing the "miracle of birth" and then surrender the kittens to the SPCA because the SPCA will find them homes. It is not okay to adopt a kitten without realizing that you are taking on a twenty plus year commitment of being responsible for another life. Cats and kittens set free into the wild or dumped within City limits to fend for themselves are immediately put at risk and may, if not fixed, increase the populations there. A pet is not something to give up when it gets old, sick or inconvenient. When people move, the cat, as part of the family should be a consideration--not something to unload for someone else to take responsibility for before relocating. A person who can objectify an animal is more likely to treat that animal in an inhumane way.

These are the kind of behaviours that have contributed to the current population concerns with cats. Rescue agencies are safety nets for situations where there is no choice but to give up a pet--no choice but to help a pet at risk. They are not in place to pick up the slack of people who change their mind about responsible pet guardianship. People working on the front lines in those agencies are understandably often disheartened and discouraged by human stupidity and lack of empathy with respect to the animals who end up in their care.

Putting a ban on roaming pet cats on the basis of concerns about over population, bird kills and feces is going to result in non-compliance by many cat savvy pet owners-- for the love of their cats. Cats are not the only animals in our midst killing birds in situations where humans have encouraged their presence. Raccoons, squirrels, rats and crows will eat birds, especially eggs and nestlings. All of these predators obviously defecate outside, and unlike cats they do not deter rodents.

Cats just have to rub up against things to mark them with cat pheromones and those pheromones repel rodents. Cat urine is another repellant that some people actually take from litter boxes and use in areas where rodents are a problem. Nanaimo's feral rabbit population is also kept in check in some areas by roaming cats. Some neighbours appreciate the rodent control that comes from cats just being around.
Are bylaw officers ultimately going to be tasked with confiscating the pet cats of repeat offenders in order to have those pets euthanized or sent to a rescue facility, to the pound, to the SPCA for adoption--when those beloved pets already have a good home where outdoor privileges were enjoyed before any rules preventing roaming? Where is the logic or the fairness in that?

Legislation regarding animals has to be pro-active. Its focus needs to be on stopping neglect, cruelty and over-breeding and on creating situations where stiffer penalties for those actions can be enforced.

Thanks to our Mayor and Council for making time to focus on animal rights and care, and for being sensitive enough to put the current proposal on hold in order to see the bigger picture by engaging community input.

Stevie about 3 years ago

Totally understand keeping your cat on a closer eye, and implementing some form of identification for cats to keep track of owners. But how on earth are fully grown outdoor cat owners supposed to teach their cat that their world they call home is no longer available to them anymore? This is an impossible task and is going to leave many depressed cats to their owners.

People talk about it's trespassing if an animal comes on your property lmao.. It's the outside world, animals live out here, wildlife needs to exist, same with cats.

TheTipsyTurkeys about 3 years ago

While I agree cats need to be licensed, and spayed and neutered, I have issues with forcing those whose cats have been outdoors, in. Insist on licenses, and grandfather all those that register the first year. If their cat is picked up, minimal fine, as they’re used to roaming. Those registered (or not registered at all) after after the first year, have larger fines for roaming, which will include the cost of spaying or neutering, if necessary. This will allow those used to being free, some leeway. It will encourage those with new pets to keep them in from the beginning, which they’ll more easily adapt to. Those with current pets will find it a compromise, and be more inclined to accept it.

Tanya Osolin about 3 years ago