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 in favour of the updates to the Animal Responsibility Bylaw regarding both cats and dogs. I have an indoors cat and am often angered by neighboring cats that run freely outdoors, dig up my garden and flowers, poop in my yard, and kill the birds at my feeders.

If I understand it correctly, with the exception of the off-leash areas, all dogs should be kept on leashes which certainly isn't the case right now. When walking around town, parks, beaches, etc. I've been threatened by dogs, jumped on by overly friendly dogs, and had to side-step dog poop that wasn't picked up by their owners. The latter is a health/hygiene issue and certainly doesn't improve the beauty of the area or a person's experience of nature and the outdoors.

I still have a major concern that our protected nature centres (e.g. Buttertubs Marsh) still have dogs present, some are on leash and some are not. I think these areas needs to be monitored more to keep dogs out (cyclists too!). The whole point is to protect nature and our wildlife.

harpist over 3 years ago

I'm in support of the bylaw. I let my cat out now but I know it's irresponsible - mostly I'm worried about songbirds. I also worry about my cat getting hit by a car and the anguish it could cause the cat and the person who hits her. I think that in reality no one will get a ticket for having their cat at large unless it's a nuisance to the neighbours.

meg over 3 years ago

Current owners of roaming cats are not breaking the law. They brought the cats into their lives at a time when there were no restrictions-- in TRUST that the same situation would continue. Many would not have done so given knowledge of a bylaw prohibiting cats to roam. It would be UNJUST to suddenly enforce a bylaw prohibiting cats to roam because of the CIRCUMSTANCES doing so would create.
1) many owners would be put in the unexpected, high stress, and cruel position of having to treat a cat--a family member-- in a way that they know is absolutely wrong for that animal
2) newly confined cats will develop stress related health and behaviour issues which will increase the numbers of cats surrendered to rescue agencies. Some will be adopted into new homes where, chances are, similar confinement will be imposed as they unravel from having their former lives uprooted, former freedoms denied, and former bonds broken
3) A new persecuted and prosecutable minority will be created: roaming cats and people who microchip, vaccinate, provide vet care to their spayed or neutered cats; provide indoor litter boxes, the best possible nutrition, love and respectful understanding to those cats--animals which, because of their nature and history, need some unsupervised roaming time outdoors.
There will be more divisiveness between neighbours. Restrictions, for some people, will justify threatening and hurtful behaviour directed at cats and their owners. Most people are capable of working together to create mutually acceptable solutions that respect differing priorities.

100% against any new bylaw that dictates confinement or leashing of cats.

Stevie over 3 years ago

I would like to see cats more controlled.

They use my garden as a toilet so when I am digging in the earth I get to uncover cat feces...not nice !

Also last summer 2 baby birds were killed in our backyard.
Populations of song birds are declining and they are an important part of our Eco system.
Please keep the cats inside !

AnneHF over 3 years ago

Like the proposed Animal Responsibility Bylaw - particularly on the limits to dog and cat numbers in a household as well as the prospect of keeping cats confined to their own property. Roaming, stray and feral cats are a well known international concern amongst wildlife specialists. The statement that “outdoor cats also contribute to declining bird populations and pose a risk for wildlife in our community” is irrefutably true and well past time for cat owners to bear greater responsibility.

CrankyGoat over 3 years ago

Furthermore all citizens of Nanaimo should seriously consider the fact that all of the educated professionals who were contacted for input gave resounding 100% support for these bylaw changes. Accept that they know more on the subject than we all do. Their guidance is important as well, as they are the subject matter experts.

kmo over 3 years ago

I also support the removal of BSL. I've been attacked by 2 dogs in Nanaimo and its never been one of the discriminated breeds. In fact my worst dog bite was from a small schnauzer type dog which tore tendons in my hand and rendered my hand useless for several weeks. Training is crucial. People also need to be aware that some breeds have a stronger tendency towards certain behaviors and not go out and get a dog that is a dominant working breed when the owner does not know how to handle that. Same goes for German shepherds, Rottweilers, even border collies can have issues if they aren't handled and exercised properly.

kmo over 3 years ago

Absolutely an issue of public health and wildlife health to keep cats confined to their owners property only. Cats destroy local populations of birds, lizards, and other small animals. They should not be allowed to roam freely destroying wildlife populations, and the basis of stating that they are helping with the "rat population control" is false and it is not the "responsibility" of pet owners to police the rat situation. Their feces contain organisms which are a huge risk to public health. Many Nanaimoites are turning to home gardens for food and herbs and flowers for the pollinators such as bees that desperately need our help. Cat feces and digging are a huge issue here. Every week in my neighborhood there are missing cat posters going up, the poor cats are likely dead from being in a fight with other larger cats or raccoons, or hit by a car, or dead from exposure to the elements.
Cat owners will happily shout about dog owners needing to pick up feces and keep their dogs confined to their property unless on a leash, why should cats be any different? Who is out there picking up all the cats feces? Not one single cat owner I bet. Make it the same rules for all domestic animals. Yoy can't let your livestock roam freely either. That's just common sense. I'm constantly disgusted and frustrated by my garden being ruined by the neighbour's cats. Perhaps folks will start trapping animals which enter their property uninvited... then cat owners would be even more upset that their pets are being treated as the nuisance animals that they are.

kmo over 3 years ago


I am opposed to changes in the bylaw leading to ticketing cat owners if their cat is outside. I think that restricting cats to be indoors, especially for the ones that are used to be outdoor is an extreme measure. I do not support it.

I do think that all cat owners should have their cats be identifiable in some ways.

Furthermore, I believe that if a cat defecates on the neighbor lawn, or creates some kind of damage, the cat owner should take all possible actions to resolve the issue. I propose that a three warnings precedes being ticketed. And that the person who is asking for the warnings has to provide a photo of the cat creating damage or defecating. Ticketing should be last resort, and giving ample time for neighbors to resolve the issue together (cat litter outside, etc).


Majie Hugues Lavergne

Majie over 3 years ago

8 out of 10 houses around our house have cats. there out all night fighting and pooping in our flower beds and when it's winter they poop under our bay windows. Every time my wife does her flower beds, she has to go through all the cat poop piles. I was putting in patio stones, left it to finish the next day and there was 3 piles of cat poop buried in the under base the next morning. Why do cat owners think that's OK! How about they come over and deal with their own cats poop.

mad hat over 3 years ago

Being the owner of 3 indoor cats who go outside on leashes or in their catio I fully support the proposed bylaw to keep cats from roaming endlessly. The excuse that cats hunt rats is flimsy. My neighbours have a cat that is outside in the worst of weather and always hungry - we have rats around and the cat does not hunt them. Most cats do not hunt rats. Dogs like fox terries are better suited to hunt rats than most cats. Because my neighbours are irresponsible with their cat the baby quails, birds, lizards are constantly hunted and killed. There are far too many irresponsible cat owners who do not spay and neuter, who do not provide the care a pet deserves. We end up with neglected cats, feral cats and far too many kittens. Our bird populations are already compromised by climate change and pollutants - cats add to this problem: .

The argument that it is against a cats nature to not run free can be used for dogs as well. Dogs also like to run free but for their safety as well as the welfare of others they are no longer allowed to roam neighbourhoods. This should also apply to cats. Every year one sees dead cats on the side of the road - one can blame the non enforced residential speed limit on many of these cases but also on the carelessness of cat owners.

There will be resistance and there will be those who ignore this bylaw but in time I think it will be a benefit as people who acquire cats fully knowing that this bylaw is in place will adjust. I hope you will follow through to what in time will be a benefit to all.

Zody over 3 years ago

Let’s make like Alberta and expel all the rats before making it mandatory to keep cats from roaming.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

I fully support the restriction of cats to their own yard. Letting them roam free is a danger to their lives and health, as well as the lives of many small animals such as birds, voles, lizards other small animals. I am also tired of cats using their neighbour's properties as a bathroom.

I feel the restriction on the number of pets should have some flexibility and exemptions should be made based on standard of care. I am thinking here of a rat breeder who is highly respected and who has a very high standard of care for far more rats than would be allowed under a revised bylaw.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback.

Karma over 3 years ago

our cities problem with rats can't handle a natural predator being restricted from hunting. It isn't reasonable to have Nanaimo's citizens suddenly leash the cats that they have allowed outdoors for their entire lives, in fact it would be cruel to those animals. neutering and spaying as well as tattooing are reasonable, but to change the ecosystem and go against a cat's nature are not

KatB over 3 years ago

I do not agree with Part 6 sections 41, 42 and 47 of Bylaw 7613 as they pertain to cats. These sections of the bylaw would prohibit cats from being free outdoors putting undue stress on the cats and their owners as owners would have to either leash train their cat and/or provide an outdoor enclosure to ensure their pets would stay on their property. During a pandemic when people are already dealing with so much change, including working from home and in some cases schooling their children at home, why would anyone want the added stress of transitioning an outdoor/indoor cat to indoor only? Cats are worse than humans when it comes to adapting to change. We are in the process of adapting to a new world because of Covid, a lot of us are not fairing so well. The amount of potential veterinary bills because of novel stress on a cat alone is a reason to strike these sections of the bylaw.
Further, all the studies relating to cats being a main cause of the decline of bird populations are unsubstantiated as they are only based on estimates and what little research there is relates to feral cats as the main cause.
However, there is quite a lot of evidence that points to habitat loss and habitat degradation as the main contributors of bird population decline. This is something the city can improve upon by strengthening tree bylaws, incorporating more park lands into city property and mandating wildlife corridors and forest buffers when approving new developments.
In regards to feral cats, I strongly agree with mandatory spaying/neutering to help decrease the population. I would also like to see an educational campaign promoting the proper care and treatment of animals including yearly wellness checks and vaccinations. I do not think that respectful and responsible pet owners and their pets should have to suffer when there is not evidence to support that keeping cats indoors or leashed would solve the problems the City is asserting cats cause.

engaged over 3 years ago

People worried about their bird feeders when bird feeders feed rats more than they do birds. And also are usually not healthy like wild sources of food and also create dependence. Most of these birds are invasive species. I also thought feeding wildlife was illegal? Lots of people unintentionally kill hummingbirds with contaminated sugar water. Sugar water also does not necessarily contain the other nutrients a humming bird needs and can lead to deficiencies or death in the case of toxic growths in the water.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

My neighbours and their kids like my cat and the cat goes over to play with the kids and everything is peachy. It’s a shame this might have to come to an end now with these new bylaws :(

Qwerty over 3 years ago

I am in FULL support of this new bylaw. Like many others who support this, I am tired of domesticated cats coming into my yard/garden. We feed hummingbirds and song birds. Have been doing so for many years.
Local cats now have begun to show up in our yard. We have lost 2 hummingbirds and numerous song birds. We finally had to STOP feeding all birds to keep them protected! It is disheartening to see cats killing wild birds.
Populations of our wild song birds are declining due to environmental changes. This city does not need free roaming cats adding to this. I am a dog owner and I do not let our dog roam free.
Cat owners are putting their cat at risk each and every time they let them roam. Frequently, in this area that I live in, cats are always running across the road. This makes them a target for Road Kill.
No one feels good when they hit an animal. It is the pet owners responsibility to make sure their pets are kept safe. Therefore, keeping them indoors is the most sensible, safe thing to do. To all City Council Members PLEASE vote in favor of this common sensed bylaw!

Gone Fishing over 3 years ago

I am in full support of this new bylaw.

Philfay over 3 years ago

Maybe we should have a vote. A public vote.

Qwerty over 3 years ago