The Neighbour Series Part 3: Pets and bylaws

Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person, or even a snake person, there are probably bylaws that apply to you. Cities across the country have turned to bylaws to regulate pet ownership, and in this latest edition of our Neighbour Series we will be exploring some of the intricacies of this area.

Licensing and regulations

Pet bylaws often cover two important areas: licensing and what you have to do before you get a pet, and also the rules and regulations you have to follow once you get your pet. This is quite important, as if a neighbour phones to complain about your pet’s behavior, the ensuing problems will magnified if you have not followed the rules for ownership of that pet.

Calgary and Edmonton both have licencing requirements for dogs and cats, as do many other communities, and they might not all be the same! The Edmonton bylaw, for example, requires that all dogs and cats over six months get a licence, and it prohibits the granting of a licence to a person under the age of 18. These are annual licences that require the payment of a pet-licencing fee. Even pigeons need a licence!

The second, and equally important, part of the bylaw lists off the rules that responsible dog and cat owners must follow. A few examples:

  • dog owners must ensure that the dog does not bark in a manner that is likely to disturb or annoy others;
  • owners must also remove any of their dog’s poop that is left on public or private property;
  • with regard to cats, the owner must make sure that the cat doesn’t enter the private property;
  • both dogs and cats must display the licence tag issued by the city at all times when they are off the owners’ property; and
  •  there is multi-step process, often with very serious consequences, if your pet bites another person.

It is also worth noting that these bylaws can apply beyond the owner to cover dog walkers, friends, family, and anyone else who has care and control of the pet.

Edmonton’s Animal Care and Control department enforces these bylaws. They also investigate all pet related complaints including cats or dogs found at large. You can call 780-442-5311 or email [email protected] if you wish to make a complaint.

Exotic pets and prohibited animals

Often, cities will also have bylaws in place to control exotic pets. You may remember the heartbreaking story of Connor and Noah Barthe from New Brunswick who were killed by an African rock python this past summer. Even though New Brunswick does have laws prohibiting these types of snakes (unless through an accredited zoo), it could not prevent this tragedy. Alberta also has laws covering these types of exotic pets and the only way that you can get one is if you get a permit from the provincial ministry that administers the Wildlife Act (which is currently Environment and Sustainable Resource Development).

 

In Edmonton, it was decided that these laws were not enough and there are bylaws that prohibit certain animals. Bees, poisonous snakes, and poisonous reptiles are prohibited unless permission has been granted by the City Manager. The keeping of pigeons is also prohibited without a licence. And no person shall keep more than three dogs or six cats on any premise with a municipal address in the city.

Other Laws to Keep in Mind

As we have mentioned before, bits of law about any given topic can be spread out in numerous levels of law – municipal, provincial, and federal, and under various topics. This includes what can and cannot be done by, to and with pets. A few examples:

Pets and condominiums

Condominiums across the country have adopted the use of bylaws to control pets. In Alberta, section 32(1) of the Condominium Property Act allows condominiums to create bylaws for “the control, management and administration of units”. Condo bylaws often mandate the size of dogs that you can have, how many pets you can have, and other issues like noise and barking. Failure to follow these bylaws often results in fines and in extreme cases even eviction. Both owners and renters must follow these bylaws. There was a recent case in Edmonton where an unsuspecting renter got caught under the Condominium’s Bylaws for having dogs even though her lease allowed for it. As she found out, the bylaws will always prevail over a lease. So if you are planning on renting in a condo and a landlord doesn’t provide you with a copy of condo bylaws then make sure you get a copy from a registry agent.

Pets in vehicles

Although no province as of yet requires that pets have a seat belt when travelling in a vehicle, various jurisdictions do have rules about pets travelling unsecured in the back of a pick-up truck. And we are pretty sure that, just about anywhere in Canada, you would get in trouble for this sort of thing.

Pets and protective orders

In some jurisdictions, pets can be included in protective orders. These are court orders meant to help protect one person from another. Protective orders cannot be written to protect pets for their own sake. However, pets can be included if doing so will help protect the person for whom the order is written. In Newfoundland and Labrador this possibility is directly specified that in that province’s Family Violence Protection Act:   “property” means an interest, present or future, vested or contingent, in real or personal property, including companion animals…”. In Alberta, it is not specifically stated, but there is an inclusion that arguably makes it possible to include pets.

Animal protection

Both provincial and federal governments have animal protection laws. For example, in Alberta, the Animal Protection Act protects animals from distress due to neglect or abuse by their owner or caretaker. Peace officers from the Alberta SPCA, the Calgary Humane Society and the Edmonton Humane Society are appointed by the Solicitor General of Alberta and the Minister of Public Security to enforce the Animal Protection Act. Penalties can include restrictions on owning animals and fines of up to $20,000. The Criminal Code of Canada , on the other hand, applies to wilful acts of cruelty or neglect, either by an animal’s owner or by someone else. Cases covered by the Criminal Code are usually investigated by community police or the RCMP, often in consultation with the appropriate SPCA or humane society. Maximum penalties vary depending on the type of conviction under the Criminal Code.

And that is just a start!

Options for Resolving Issues

As is often the case with legal issues, many communities recommend that a first course of action be talking to your neighbour yourself. Sometimes, a respectful conversation can be the quickest and most inexpensive method of solving a problem. However, as we all know, a conversation does not always work, and sometimes, it may not even be possible.

As a result, some communities offer a complaint process. For example, the city of Edmonton recommends a four-stage approach.

  1. Discuss the concern with the neighbour.
  2. If you can’t resolve it directly, record the address of the violation and a description of the problem.
  3. Call 311 or submit your complaint online.
  4. Provide your name, address, phone number, and the details of your concern in case your testimony is required in court.

Other cities offer other solutions, such as: leaving an anonymous note, leaving a hi-lighted copy of the by-law in your neighbour’s mailbox, and community mediation.

For information on options available in your community, consult your municipality’s website.

Conclusion

Pets aren’t expected to follow the law, but you are. So it is important that you brush up on the bylaws in your local area so that you are aware of your responsibilities.

This is a guest post by Cameron Mitchell, a third year law student who is volunteering with the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.

About Carole (Staff Lawyer)
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