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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A video is a better way to sum up how I feel. How City Council Stole Your Cat's Christmas:

uriahjokes over 3 years ago

I support the proposed animal responsibility bylaw 100%. There are two neighbourhood cats who regularly prowl through our yard, pooping in our flowerbeds and stalking and killing songbirds. (That's not "nature," that's an invasive species killing native ones.) Plus, it drives our dog nuts to see them in the yard, and he drives us nuts with the barking. Cat owners shouldn't get to outsource the care of their cats to the entire neighbourhood. BSL is an outdated paradigm, and it's much more fair to replace it with a bylaw that targets dangerous dogs of all breeds, rather than targeting breeds themselves.

Jonathan Smith over 3 years ago

Thankyou Nanaimo for considering this cat bylaw. Too many times I have to cleanup behind someone's cats that use our property as a litter box.

Beacher over 3 years ago

Absolutely agree with not letting cats run free off your property. As a home owner and gardener, I despise the neighborhood cats using my flower garden as a litter box. It's disgusting and dangerous for my pregnant wife - research Toxoplasma gondii. How could Nanaimo NOT consider a bylaw that protects its vulnerable citizens from disease spread through cat feces?

Keep your cats on your own property, or better yet in your house. If you can't do that, you should not own a cat.

From Wikipedia, in reference to how one becomes infected with Toxoplasma gondii:

"by ingesting water, soil, vegetables, or anything contaminated with oocysts shed in the feces of an infected animal.[46] Cat fecal matter is particularly dangerous: Just one cyst consumed by a cat can result in thousands of oocysts. This is why physicians recommend pregnant or ill persons do not clean the cat's litter box at home.[50] These oocysts are resilient to harsh environmental conditions and can survive over a year in contaminated soil."

John Smith over 3 years ago

I do not agree to this bylaw at all. I have no problems with cats roaming my neighborhood for many reasons. One reason is in the Divers Lake area, which I live in, there are quite a few rats because of a creek and wooded area. Luckily because of the cats in our neighborhood they don't come near our houses because of the cats. A recent survey conducted on 107.3 cool FM in Victoria found that 73% of respondents thought this was ludicrous including one of the DJs, Chris Palliser. It's pretty bad when a Victoria radio station is making fun of nanaimo's proposed bylaw. Let's use our city resources for something far more important!

Kevinc04 over 3 years ago

I strongly encourage City Council to pass this bylaw.
As the owner of a "restricted" breed of dog, I am thrilled to hear that Nanaimo is considering getting away from the arbitrary and frankly racist breed-specific legislation (BSL) that is impossible to enforce anyway, based solely on whether a dog looks like a certain breed. A dog's breed is impossible to know by appearance alone, and many of us have rescue dogs, not dogs from breeders, so we can only guess at the breed or breed mixture of our dog. And whatever its supposed breed, any dog's temperament may be aggressive or docile. Nevertheless BSL deems every dog who looks like a certain breed to be a "vicious dog." Many municipalities in the US and Canada have moved away from BSL to more fair, logical, and enforceable bylaws that target only those dogs, of any breed, who are proven to be a problem. No dog should be pre-judged by their appearance or their supposed breed, just as no human should be pre-judged by their appearance or ethnic background.
And I completely agree with JEBrook about cats. Many people in my neighbourhood are gardeners and it is disgusting to be weeding or planting something in your nice flower bed and bump into stinky cat poop on the soil or an inch or two down. In our neighbourhood you can't leave even a small area of open soil in a flower or vegetable bed without a cat deciding it's a litterbox, digging it up and peeing and pooping in it. And cats kill countless songbirds every year, whose population has suffered shocking declines in the last 50 years from habitat loss as well as from domestic cats. Nor is it fair that cat owners have zero responsibility for their pets' actions, whereas dog owners must pick up their poop, can't have them on the beach in the summer, must follow leash laws and even muzzle laws at present, etc,, etc.
I urge City Council to do the right thing and pass this bylaw.

sill85 over 3 years ago

I support the need to have cats spayed/neutered if they will be outside and I also support the need for identification.

I do not support banning cats from roaming. I like seeing cats in my neighbourhood. They cause no harm to me or my home.

travis over 3 years ago

I am against this bylaw. The City of Nanaimo should be focusing on actual issues and problems like theft, drug addiction, and the homeless instead of wasting tax payer money on silly things like this.

lostHistoryBuff over 3 years ago

Heads up- but you can’t control an outdoor cat from going into someone’s yard or public space. And the consultant who suggested that is completely unaware of how cats operate. Cats roam, they kill rats and rodents, they add poop to gardens, then bury it ( which is good for plants) . Suggesting now an owner has to follow an outdoor cat around all day is ridiculous. So now your going to have dumb neighbours complaining non stop to the city to come and get some neighbours cat in their yard. Or they will think it’s justified now, since it’s a rule, to grab the cat and confine it for the city to pick up. Or they might just decide to shoot it with a BB gun- to deter it. Or they might think it’s fine to let their dog run at it and grab it or kill it. The city and this rule is giving people who hate cats excuses now to attack a cat on their property or on a public sidewalk? Come on. Cats aren’t hurting anyone. You are making more work for the city pound and thus more workers will have to deal with cat complaints. For what? What a waste of money. If you are concerned about cats getting birds, require a bell on their collar. I can understand that. But banning outdoor cats from private and public spaces is impossible to control and will cause unnecessary stress to families with cats- especially poorer families that have a cat because it’s cheaper than a dog. Animals are in families to make people happy. They aren’t supposed to cause undue worry and stress . Back off on this issue Nanaimo. Your socialists ways of over control are getting out of hand and leading to actual cruel rule suggestions. A Very insensitive approach.

Pennyhockey over 3 years ago

After having read this proposed bylaw, I cannot see anything that jumps immediately out of place. It is generally well-written and makes sense. I have read that some are bringing up "controlling the rat population", and these wild animals have certainly done damage to our property. That said, this is my responsibility to deal with, not my neighbour's cat. I understand that cat owners feel targeted and as a cat lover I sympathize but the reality is that I do not enjoy doing gardening only to find buried treasure or having cats chase away birds from the garden we work so hard to craft. We can't just "leave the cats alone" when they don't leave our property and the wildlife alone. Cats are meant for people to enjoy, so please enjoy them in your homes. And I mean this in the kindest way possible, do not own a cat if you are not prepared to be responsible for it's behaviour.

Yetharius over 3 years ago

100 percent in agreement with all the new bylaws. We have fostered over 200 cats in the last 12 years - all abandoned, some pregnant and dumped, abused and neglected. Looking forward to doing this less!

alexispetersen over 3 years ago

100 percent in favor of keeping cats in doors or on leashes when outside . I do not think people need 6 pets and cant imagine how they could control that many animals . I believe the vicious dog rule is too lienient and they should be better controlled or not allowed .

brianjones over 3 years ago

I'm 100% on board for cats needing identification. I'm also 100% on board for cats that are permitted outside needing to be spayed or neutered. What I have trouble with is the rules regarding cats roaming at large.
A cat that has been brought up in a responsible household, outside for a couple hours in the afternoon, fixed, well-fed and chipped is not going to understand why it's no longer allowed to roam. It's unfair to the existing cats that are used to the outdoors and can't always be kept in a yard - this may cause an increase in behavioural problems which is just not fair to the pets nor to the families.

If this was suggested as a phased transition it may be better.

EWinters over 3 years ago

Leave the cats alone, please. Better make sure all the dog owners, whose dogs regularly poop on the beach at Departure Bay are fined. As well as when ' the dog on a leash' rule is abused, which happens everywhere. When a dog attacks people, the punishment should be really strict, not just slap on the hand. Thanks

Helen over 3 years ago

It is definitely time for cat bylaws. We have detailed bylaws controlling dogs and nothing for cats. House cats are not wild animals and should not have free rein over our city. It's a choice to have a cat and if someone chooses to be a cat owner then they need to be held accountable for their animal.
As a property owner with young children I find it extremely frustrating to regularly find cat feces in my food garden. Cats are known to spread a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which causes the infection Toxoplasmosis in humans. Dog owners are required to pick up their animals feces so how is it ok for cat owners to let their cats defecate in my yard? It is well known that cats kill millions of songbirds each year in Canada. If we can modernize our cat bylaws it would be a step in the right direction as North American bird populations have been drastically declining for decades. Domestic cats have also tested positive for the coronavirus. Given the unknowns of COVID-19 and the strict measures being put in place for society how are cats allowed to roam freely? Maybe it is time to consider communicable diseases in the present and future. Outdoor cat enclosures/pens are available or can be built.

Seaside over 3 years ago

Nanaimo is behind the times in terms of still allowing cats to roam at large. Most island communities stopped the practice because of lack of control by owners allowing their cats to defecate wherever they liked. As a responsible cat owner myself, my cat is trained to stay in my garden, he does not roam our neighborhood leaving his calling cards behind him for other people to pick up! Dog owners have to pick up after their dogs and are fined if they don’t ( and are caught) there is no way of enforcing that with a cat owner, other than prohibiting the cat from being outside and keeping it in its own garden. As a gardener, I strongly object to local cats using my fruit and vegetable beds as their cat doesn’t, he uses a clean litter box.
Cat owners need to realise that they have to be accountable for their cat’s activities in the same way a dog owner is...if they can’t, or won’t, they need to keep the animal indoors or be prepared to pay fines! And the City of Nanaimo needs to ensure that the resulting by-law is actually enforced.

JEBrook over 3 years ago

I think if you are going to have a bylaw, that it should be enforced and enforceable. I don't agree with the last item on the bulleted list above simply because you don't actually enforce "dog on leash" bylaws. X-times daily dogs are off-leash in parks and trails, dog owners are leaving their dogs feces behind... neatly scooped into a bag on the trail. Those are my thoughts.

Salish Kat over 3 years ago

A dog must be leashed, under control and not allowed to roam freely. Why should a cat be any different? Roaming cats are a scourge and owners and “victims” should be given the tools to deal with them accordingly. Dead birds near feeders. Noxious urine sprayed on patio furniture, BBQs, walls etc. Fecal matter in flower beds and vegetable gardens. Obnoxious caterwauling at all hours of the night. It isn’t very difficult to prove beyond a doubt the culprit in these matters. This decision only requires a modicum of common sense. Hopefully council shows that in this bylaw.

The Man over 3 years ago

I'm responding to the question asking residents how they feel about roaming cats:
Cats naturally roam and they need it for healthy exercise and mental stimulation. It is not right for us to oppress another being because we feel inconvenienced (digging in gardens, chasing birds). I love birds, but nature needs to be left alone. Thebreaodn we dont alloe dogs to roam free is because of the potential danger to humans, especially children. Cats are not a danger.

Kirynquinn over 3 years ago

We think that cats should not be allowed to roam free. They scare the birds away from our bird feeder, they catch birds, and they use our flower beds and lawns as toilets. Dogs aren't allowed to roam, so why should cats be?

Sheffield over 3 years ago