Hens and bees allowed under new Calgary pet bylaw, number of cats and dogs limited per household

Calgary council approved a new pet ownership bylaw Wednesday that allows a limited number of backyard hen licences, caps the number of dogs and cats a household can have and gives the chief bylaw officer power to designate nuisance or vicious animals. 

All changes to the bylaw — which hadn't been updated in 12 years — will go into effect in January 2022. 

Anyone who wants to keep backyard hens will only be granted a licence if they complete training, and when the coop is deemed sufficient.

Calgary is capping the number of licences for backyard hens at 100 households, with each allowed up to four hens. Licensing will also be needed for bee colonies and pigeons.

NEW RULES FOR CATS AND DOGS 

Bylaw changes also limit the number of dogs and cats to six of each per household with exceptions for breeders. People are also limited to six dogs each at an off-leash park. 

The new pet ownership rules also gives bylaw the authority to deem an animal vicious or a nuisance. 

A nuisance animal designation may happen if an animal shows repeated threatening behaviour, has been found running at large more than once or repeatedly barks or howls. The owner of a nuisance animal will be required to attend training, keep the animal inside overnight and keep a muzzle on the animal when outside and off of the owner's property. 

A vicious animal is one that has caused severe injury to a person or another animal. A vicious animal may be impounded and its owner will be required to undergo training, create a secure area on their property and the animal must be tagged at all times. 

Fines for animal attacks and bites are also increasing under the new rules. 

Some are concerned the training requirements for nuisance and vicious animals will be a barrier for low-income pet owners.

"I worry a lot about people who don't have the money to spend on professional dog training and that could be required. It's written right into the law," said Melanie Rock with the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine.

"There are very genuine benefits from having a companion animal, but it also means you need to have a neighbourhood and a social context where those benefits can be realized," she said.

The city says it will take the next several months to figure out how to best assist pet owners who may find additional conditions a financial hurdle.

"If there's a financial barrier for someone to comply with the bylaw, there's a lot of different ways we can work with those individuals and at the same time, make sure we're addressing the problem," said Ryan Pleckaitis, Chief Bylaw Officer.