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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If the bylaws is to be effective there must be proof of the harm done by cats if they roam free. Certainly , all cats should be spay/ neutered and identifiable to protect their well being but "dirty dirt" cannot be a justifiable reason for roaming restriction. I live in a neighbourhood where children roam on bicycles, dogs bark , and cats roam . If I want to have total privacy and control over other peoples pets then I would move when there are none . How will this bylaw be enforced? It only makes it open season on cats and will result in people not owning cats.
Dirty dirt is NOT a bylaw issue.

Cheryl Foley over 3 years ago

I believe there should be a limit of two cats per person. And must have all animals fixed unless you have a license to breed. But not allowing cats to go outside when they have been their whole life is going to far. If they are up to date on shots and fixed it should be fine. As my cat is 8 years old and sleeps on our chair outside his whole life. To take that quality of life from his is unfair. Do not punish responsible pet owners and their pets.

Amberlee85 over 3 years ago

I am in full support of this bylaw. It's disgusting that cats are allowed to roam around into other people's property. I am sick of seeing cats roaming through my yard, digging and pooping in my garden and annoying my dog. This is trespassing in my opinion, just like nobody wants to see my dog running through and peeing in their backyard (except that I respect other people's property). I also see cats roaming freely in the Buttertubs conservation area despite that cats are invasive pests on native animal populations of songbirds and small mammals. Some people say cats are good for (invasive) rat control, but the truth is they kill far more native birds and voles than people realize. The scientific research, both in Canada and internationally, consistently shows cats are the biggest threat to small animals as they kill indiscriminately and for sport - meaning they kill even when they are not hungry and they don't eat what they kill. Owners of cats likely have no idea just how much their pet kills as they rarely bring their kills home. Songbirds are DECLINING across North America and cats are the biggest reason why. You can keep your cat inside and your children will still be able to enjoy hearing birds singing when they are older.

Jamie G. over 3 years ago

I agree with most recommendations. I believe that fixed, adult cats who have always been free to come and go should be able to live out their lives. They can be tattooed and belled during nesting season. Would this apply to RDN as well? How will the rodent population be controlled ? Poisons?

suzy5 over 3 years ago

While I agree with most things in the bylaw, I do not agree with immediately restricting cats indoors. It makes sense to ensure cats are identified and are s/n. I would take it one step further and suggest that cat owners pay licence fees similar to dogs to build capacity to monitor cat populations and support the Nanaimo Animal Shelter. I think a phased approach to keep cats indoors would be more accepted by cat owners, such as notifying owners that they should begin the process of keeping cats inside - with the eventual restriction coming into effect in five years. If cat owners are responsible they will take the time to adjust their pets, and those who don’t will get to deal with screaming cats or pay fines when they are impounded. Perhaps licence fees collected during this transition period would support the City’s requirement to enforce the bylaw when it comes into effect. It would be helpful to understand the impacts of cats on rat populations and if a response from the City is needed when cats are kept indoors. This will be a culture shift for many in Nanaimo, from how they grew up with cats in their households to modern times and issues today.

A_C over 3 years ago

With all the other problems facing the city Council with homelessness and crime in Nanaimo I am shocked that responsible people want to divert public attention with this kind of nonsense.
I would support a spay and identification by law, however, by law restricting cats on by responsible owners to their property is just an invitation to endless disputes with the proverbial “cranky neighbor“ and an invitation for overly zealous bureaucrats trying to justify their existence. Surely you have better things to do with taxpayer money than this kind of nonsense.
Put me down as generally against this by law as far as restrictions against cats and cats owners are concerned.

Jay Straith over 3 years ago

RE: Animal Responsibility by-law. Thank you for caring for the well being of our citizens and associated "fur babies" in an attempt to regulate the pet population's behaviour. I appreciate the work our council does to move Nanaimo towards a more sustainable and inclusive community, appreciating the ever growing diversity of our community, which can only be aa benefit to one and all. Regulating cats? An anomaly is council's so far very thoughtful agenda, policy and implementation. It's like criminalizing drug possession, in lieu of addressing it as a health issue. "Punishing" the 95%+ cats and their owners enjoying outdoor privileges, for the few over-zealous bird-hunters and indiscriminate "poopers" seems ... well ... a bit of a far reach. Cats also "control" rodent populations and feral rabbits, so assess the overall ecological impact, not just the view of bird lovers or the occasional kitty that poops out of place. IF, and only IF, council cares to proceed with such a bylaw, adopt a targeted vs blanket approach. My cats are 12 years old, seniors, and are far passed their hunting days. Let's not lock them up in long-term care. Tax dollars have been over-stretched during covid, property taxes are increasing, therefore please use these limited funds towards much more urgent priorities in council's strategic plan. Again, thank you to Staff and Council for your dedication and integrity. Please consider shelving this item for a less crisis-oriented time. Once Nanaimo has a surplus, then we can afford to dedicate by-law officer's time to herd cats.

IslandKaren over 3 years ago

Perhaps allow Canadian Kennel Club members in good standing with the club be exempt from the 4 dog limit. also, under the home based business bylaw it states that you can't have a home based business for breeding. We will no longer have out health tested pure breds, like golden retrievers, labs etc who have stable temperaments if good breeds can't produce them. Part 6 – Page 15 General Regulations City of Nanaimo Zoning Bylaw6.20.3. The following uses are specifically prohibited as a home based business:
You sent Today at 9:10 PM Pet day care, boarding kennel, animal training and commercial dog breeder.

Cantara over 3 years ago

I presume this is someone's pet project and regardless of the opinions presented here, we will be subjected to this bylaw anyway. The omnibus style of the bill is undesirable. Breed specific dog legislation should be abolished based on available data. Declaring that all cats can no longer be at large anywhere in Nanaimo overnight is an unachievable goal designed to appease the part of society that yells the loudest. It is supported by science, but so are many other things that we haven't attempted to remedy overnight with zero foresight to management. When alcohol was made illegal in the US, consumption did not stop at all, it simply became something the state could violently enforce at it's discretion. Smoking was reduced from 50%-60% of the population to 15% or less by a campaign of information and cultural change over the course of years. If this is important to enough of the population that's how it should be managed. Cats who are used to going outdoors are still going to go outdoors regardless of the extra burden you put on their owners and our municipal enforcement team and it's very unlikely to immediately reduce the number of at large cats, but it will create annoyed and angry people. If the goal is to have cats indoors, let's go for a phased approach that stands a chance of working instead of giving the local Karen a stick. Also, stop wasting our tax dollars on consultants. Common sense can solve most problems without the need for expensive, useless reports.

farriswc over 3 years ago

I commend all the years of work that have gone into removing the BSL designation. The proposed change better represents an ethical way at looking at dogs and behaviour.
I also fully support not allowing cats to wander outside of the owners property. Having had patio cushions destroyed, gardens used as litter boxes, swimming pool punctured and one of my dogs attacked by the neighbours cat. All preventable with responsible cat ownership and keeping them contained in their own yard.

Station over 3 years ago

As a Nanaimo long time resident I really would like to enjoy my garden backyard. I have invested in raised vegetable beds 15 years ago when I have moved to Nanaimo. After first year of an unsuccessful gardening attempt I was forced to abandon my gardening project. There are unfortunately dozens of cats who use my property every year as their toilets. Why cats should be treated different then dogs? I do pay heavy property taxes and I am unable to use my property’s full potential due to the fact that cats are permitted to roam freely in Nanaimo. It is time to stop this madness and let property owners to be free of unwanted cats. I do like animals but I do not appreciate when they are out of control and forbid me from enjoying my property.

Joanka C over 3 years ago

Please leave the bylaw as is. I think the rodent population will get out of control. Cats that are accustomed to going outside free will get depressed if forced, they will sneak out and their owners fined resulting in more cats being surrendered. I love seeing cats outside. I think cats kill a lot more rats and mice compared to birds. Let the cats be free!!

Candace over 3 years ago

For years my wife and I have been avid gardeners taking pride in keeping our yard and gardens neat and tidy. We are not cat owners. Almost daily we see where cats have been digging in the gardens, both inside the fenced area and the unfenced area of our property burying their messes. We find dead birds and squirrels, both on and off our property. Since nature doesn't take life for the sake of taking life and not consuming it, we assume that these deaths are attributable to roaming cats. We have also been dog owners for years dutifully paying annual licensing fees and not permitting our dogs to wander freely off our property. We totally support spaying or neutering and preventing cats from wondering.

GG & HG over 3 years ago

Regarding the new proposed cat bylaw... I think it’s a BAD IDEA! Until the RAT population is controlled please don’t enforce this bylaw. I WANT my neighbor’s cat in my yard, she hunts the rats (I have literally seen her do this). The RATS are the bigger issue here and it doesn’t need to become an even bigger issue. Please address the RATS before you address the cats! Thank you!

Sara88 over 3 years ago

I’m so happy this opportunity finally came up to change the pet owners from letting the cats run free.
I have called the mayors office and spoke to the mayor every year for the last five years to say when are you going to do something about the cat problem.
I am not a pet person but I am forced to deal with cats coming in to my property and creating damage and using my yard as a toilet. Totally unhappy about having to except this from cat owners.
At one time A cat got inside my boat under my canvas and sprayed in my boat and clawed my upholstery to shreds to the cost of 2 1/2 thousand dollars when I caught the cat running out no one as an owner would own up to it. I felt like a victim getting vandalized with no retribution to repair the damage at the cat owners expense. A different time I chased a cat from my property as it was shredding my patio furniture. In my immediate area there are eight cats that come into my yard daily and use my yard as a toilet and I’m tired of it.
I agree 100% any animal owner should be responsible for their animals dogs cats rabbits it doesn’t matter they do damage to innocent peoples property with no accountability.
I have had to spend endless amounts of money to try and protect my boats my vehicles with no success just frustration.
I cannot wait till The city of Nanaimo in forces the bylaw that all cats cannot run free and create damage through the neighbourhood properties.

TG over 3 years ago

I have a bit of concern with the intense comments I've seen from folks in regards to trapping cats, and poisoning them? or making them disappear? Sure I understand people are upset with cats pooping in their veggie garden, but perhaps there is a more humane way and make smaller steps towards this issue vs a total ban on allowing cats their freedom. Let's chat bells on collars, allowing them out at night if possible instead, owners and neighbours chatting reasonably to be open about their concerns and wishes so both parties can choose what is best for their needs in their neighbourhood. Cats who are outdoors to be shoved inside won't handle well, as well as the stress it puts on folks already dealing with anxieties from covid. A screaming cat wanting to go sit outside isn't going to help anyone mental health right now. Let's take a step back from this extreme move and make some small steps. See if that helps, and go from there. I think there are many other important things this city should be concerned with at this time.

_____ over 3 years ago

A bylaw to restrict cats to indoors and to remove the dangerous dog label from pitbulls etc. Brilliant. Pick on the inoffensive and ignore the potentially dangerous. The dog lobby wins again. I'd like to see evidence of when a cat last attacked and mauled a person or another dog or even just left its signature on a sidewalk or a playing field or in a park or on a beach. But yep, they're the real menace.

Calculon over 3 years ago

Free roaming cats do a great job of controlling the rat population. I believe we'll have a lot more rat problems if this bylaw is allowed to pass. I strongly disagree with this bylaw. over 3 years ago

I do not want cats confined to their yards. This ruling is vulnerable to abuse as cats do not handle such conditions well by nature. We will be left with heartbreaking situations where a cat leaves the yard, is apprehended by By Law officers and the owner faces either a huge fine or having to surrender a beloved pet. I personally witness having been told by a animal control employee that they couldn't be bothered with cats because and I quote "There is no money in cats." That says it all. No money. Contrast this to my recently deceased beloved cat, Amber. She died of old age, by the way. Amber was a stray who adopted me. She was a phenomenal rodent catcher. Kept my yard, my neighbor's yard and the neighbor across the lane's yard, rat free. A few months after she passed on, neighbor across lane stopped me and enquired as to where Amber was. He hadn't seen her lately. I let him know she had died. "Too bad." was his response. We both stood there and watched a brazen rat munch on hazelnuts fallen to the ground less than eight feet away. Had Amber been alive, that rat would have been terrorized and not around. So, many people DO WANT CATS TO ROAM! Roaming cats are not necessarily a problem. Often they are an asset to the environment in Nanaimo.

Mara over 3 years ago

I am in full support of the proposed animal responsibility bylaw, but think it doesn't go far enough. Cat owners should have to scoop their cats' poop out of their neighbours' gardens once made aware and requested by their neighbour. I also think five (5) cats is too many for in the city limits. My neighbours have five (5) cats that frequent my flower beds, and hang out on my deck and front stoop, making my one old cat uncomfortable. I have to deal with non-neutered cats spraying their terrible scent all over my property whenever one of my neighbours' cats comes into heat. Soon some of the non-sterilized kittens next door may begin spraying and getting pregnant. I am very tired of dealing with all of these cats!

Hewgate over 3 years ago