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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My voice echoes those who have given feedback against this proposal. Council should not be considering this proposal as an attempt to pacify complaints from a minority of Nanaimo residences. Cats are loving, loyal, devoted, and valued family members.
There are so many other concerns that could, and should be addressed. We are in a middle of a global pandemic, where the number of infections and deaths continue to increase at alarming rates, and this is what Council is focusing on?

CJRO over 3 years ago

This bylaw is abusive and inhumane to outdoor cats, and is frankly ignorant. Letting this go through shows the councils lack of care for these animals and their owners. Letting this go through sends an awful message to cat owners.

Acdea over 3 years ago

Animal control is a significant challenge for policy makers and owners. It is very important that multiple resources are used to facilitate policy. The input was somewhat limited, which may not reflect wider views or options. Of interest, the removal of restricted dog breed is a start, but concern arises as to what "aggressive" dog encompasses and who provides this label. Additionally, who reviews this in the future? This ultimately leads to dog training, which is very diverse and needs a broad approach to address behavioural issues, one size does not fit all. This did not appear to be clearly reflected in what was reviewed and gives pause for concern over limiting options for owners.

lprout over 3 years ago

It is inhumane to keep domestic cats indoors. No objection to them wearing a collar, and a bell alerts birds to their presence. Rats kill a lot of birds and more importantly raid the nests of eggs and young ones - cats don't do that. Gardeners have far more problems from rabbits, raccoons and deer - not cats. I should know!

Mrs Sensible over 3 years ago

The City should not be able to force pet-owners to sterlize their pets. The strategy should be education-based, and by helping run the neuter/spay program with the SPCA as it is already doing. By forcing sterilization, you are forcefully burdening the costs onto unexpecting folk (more so for those who already have pets before the bylaw). I think it is also overreach. It seems unethical to force sterilization like that. Some professionals argue that it is actually detrimental to the mental or phsical health of an animal, especialy during development. Sterilization may also come into conflict with someone's spiritual beliefs/morals about it.

Qwerty over 3 years ago
Qwerty over 3 years ago

City of Nanaimo, your argument is that the bylaws "do not ban outdoor cats," but that they either have to be tethered or confined to the yard... Realistically, you would have to construct a high fence with slick materials and have no trees or any objects near the fence for cats to climb/jump from in order to actually keep them constrained... Or, if you have a wood fence, you would have to declaw your cat which removes its natural defences. So, you are pretty much forcing all cats to be inside (lets be real) while maintaining the soundbite that "cats are not banned from being outside."

Qwerty over 3 years ago

"Outdoor Access is Key to Your Cat's Mental & Physical Health." "Outdoor access is a primary way to relieve stress and enrich a cat’s life." "Many behavioral issues have been linked to a lack of outdoor activity." Can we also note that behavioural issues are the number one reason for cats being surrendered or abandoned.

Qwerty over 3 years ago
Qwerty over 3 years ago

"Rats are not native to BC." "a threat to native wildlife and have decimated populations of ground-nesting birds." "Rats are also known to carry and spread a variety of diseases that can impact human health."

Qwerty over 3 years ago

In response to your response about my concerns about the urban rat epidemic when all the cats are locked up: I can try my best to prevent rats from my property, but how am I supposed to stop rats from coming from other people's properties? From the bushes? From the garbage bins around town? From the storm drains? Cats have lived alongside humans for 10,000 years helping keep rats away. 10,000 years of evidence vs. a new anti-cat trend.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

The City's response to concerns about confining cats: tie them up in your backyard. If the cat is wearing a break-away collar, they'll go out; if the cat is not wearing a break-away collar, they'll be strangeled. Why is it abuse for a dog to be chained up outside, but not a cat? Let the cats roam. Keeping a cat confined to indoors, especially one accustomed to being outside, is abuse.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

If birds are your concern, how about protecting more forests (their habitat)

Qwerty over 3 years ago

I love the evasive copy-and-paste style responses to the questions.

Qwerty over 3 years ago

Are cats the ultimate weapon in public health

Qwerty over 3 years ago

As mentioned previously, I'm against the part of the proposed bylaw that would have the city apprehend roaming pet cats . The Consultant hired by the City points out that before this can begin to happen, the existing Pound would have to be expanded to include a "cat wing". Undoubtedly with the new population of added inmates there will soon follow a request for additional staff at the Pound. All of this involves more $$ and you have to ask if this really is a priority for where our taxes should be going. It would seem that the same end could be achieved if the SPCA took more responsibility in future for the cats they are adopting out. For example they could(1) make it a condition of adoption that cats are not to be allowed to roam freely and (2) train cats to walk on a leash before they are adopted out.
The city already gets lots of criticism for having too many bylaws that it can't enforce. It doesn't need another one.

Allan Davidson over 3 years ago

It will be impossible to keep our two older neutered cats on our property if this bylaw is passed. I do not want this component of the bylaw to be passed as it will cause a lot of extra stress on both our cats and us as well trying to keep them contained.

cmcmain over 3 years ago

Making it essentially illegal for cats to roam being only enforced on a complaint basis will only serve to empower the Karen’s of this town. That’s all this is for, is giving complainers more grounds to whine, and spend more taxpayer money on something, anything, other than the waterfront walkway

PancakesandWaffles over 3 years ago

Thank you for consulting experts and animal rescue personnel. The loudest opinion does not always equate to the most fair or informed opinion. Question about aggressive dog breeds and muzzle laws. How is this now defined? I also agree cats shouldn't wander. It is going to be very very difficult, though, for those who have owned an outdoor cat for many years to lock it inside. I don't have the answer to that problem though.

NJMo over 3 years ago

The portion of the bylaw for cats with IDs that are spayed or neutered being prohibited from freely roaming outside seems to have poor justification. Clearly it is not aimed at population control, but is enforcing a series of value judgements beyond controlling the cat population. Cats may live longer healthier lives by being forced to live indoors, but so do zoo animals in captivity compared to wild animals, but we don't force wild animals into captivity strictly for that reason. Humans also put their lives at risk by travelling by car, drinking alcohol, doing extreme sports or just eating too much food, none of which has a bylaw to restrict them. Why are we discussing these value judgments like it is connected to population control? The idea that cats kill too many birds would be stronger if birds were the desired pets instead of cats, or birds just couldn't go fly somewhere else to live, but neither is the case.

bluecougar over 3 years ago