City releases proposed new animal control bylaw

Guelph, Ont., November 25, 2016 – City staff will present the proposed new animal control bylaw at the December 5 Committee of the Whole meeting.

The proposed bylaw would replace four animal control bylaws that currently regulate poultry, and domestic and exotic animals in Guelph.

“To better serve the community, we have taken the four bylaws and amendments that address animal control issues in Guelph and developed a single bylaw,” says Doug Godfrey, general manager of Operations.

The City, with the assistance of the Animal Control Working Group (ACWG), comprised of community members, agency representatives, and City employees, spent three years reviewing and consolidating the existing animal control bylaws and considering community feedback.

In 2015, 81 people submitted written feedback at four public meetings and 2,100 distinct online survey responses were received, which focused on animal licensing, animals in public spaces, exotic animals, and limits on animals. Last spring, the City released an analysis of resident feedback, which was used to inform the work of the ACWG and the development of the proposed bylaw.

“The proposed bylaw would not be possible without the tremendous support we have received from the community working group as well as hundreds of ideas and comments received by residents during the extensive public engagement process,” says Godfrey, adding, “This review gave staff an opportunity to tighten up, and in some cases loosen, the rules.”

The proposed bylaw will go to Council on Monday, December 19 at 6:30 p.m.

Bylaw highlights

In section two of the proposed bylaw, staff is recommending an exception to the Prohibited Animals schedule to allow sheep and goats under certain conditions, including a limit of two animals on a single property for up to 12 properties in the city. The pilot program will help staff determine the feasibility of having this exemption become permanent in the bylaw.

Sections four through 11 are about licensing and tagging of animals. Reference to licensing of dogs has been replaced with “licensing of animals.” This wording change gives the City flexibility in introducing other species, such as cats, into the licensing program.

Sections 12 and 13 regulate the registration of chickens, ducks, geese and pigeons. While requirements are similar to the existing Poultry Bylaw, a person with more than one bird will have to register it with the City. There is no limitation on the number of birds, but staff is recommending that roosters not be allowed within City limits. Staff is also recommending that this section be expanded to include snakes. Snake breeders would be required to register their snakes. This tracking would assist emergency services and any other individual required to enter the property.

In sections 18 and 19 cat licensing is recommended. A phased-in approach over the next 13 months gives cat owners the option to voluntarily purchase a licence for their cat in 2017 before it becomes mandatory in 2018. Cats that are micro chipped will not need a collar or identification tag, but owners will be required to pay an annual licence fee of $25. Five dollars from the sale of each cat licence will go to a program that supports cat welfare.

Fees associated with the bylaw will be included in the User Fee Bylaw. Recognizing that some residents may have difficulty paying for additional licences, staff is asking that a 50 per cent subsidy be allowed, per licence, for any applicant who already qualifies for a City subsidy such as the Affordable Buss Pass.

Although not listed in the proposed bylaw, staff is recommending a review be done on the pros and cons of cats roaming free in the city. In 2015, 584 cats were brought in as strays to the Guelph Humane Society. Of those cats, only 77 were reclaimed by their owners—a reclaim rate of about 13 per cent. Nationally, according to the 2014 Shelter Statistics Report issued by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, stray cats are reclaimed by their owner only nine per cent of the time.

Godfrey explains that the intent of licensing is to improve reclaim rates of stray cats in Guelph—a service that is currently funded by revenue from the sale of dog licences. “The best approach to improving rates is to ensure cats are identified whether that is through micro chipping or with a collar and identification tag.”

The City will continue to work with the ACWG to establish a minimum standard of care for animals, a project that received overwhelming support from the community when surveyed in 2015. Ninety-seven per cent of those who attended a public meeting and 89 per cent of survey respondents said they were in support of the City adopting a code of practice to outline guidelines for the minimal care of animals.

For more information

Doug Godfrey
General Manager, Operations
519-822-1260 extension 2520
doug.godfrey@guelph.ca