Five Proposed Changes to Toronto’s Animal Bylaws

The call of the wild has intensified during the pandemic – and the City of Toronto is listening.

As part of a comprehensive review to reassess and “modernize” the city’s animal bylaws, Toronto Animal Services is recommending changes to some of its rules regarding how humans and wildlife interact.

The early days of the pandemic saw an increase in sightings of coyotes and other wildlife, sparking greater awareness of how to coexist with the animals in the city, while fueling concerns about the people who feed.

As part of the review, the city compared surveys conducted in 2014 and 2021 and found that the percentage of people who said they had fed wild animals increased significantly, from 13% in 2014 to 23% in 2021. .

Last year, then-Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13 – Central Toronto) asked city staff to consider extending the ban on feeding pigeons in parks to feeding them everywhere in the city. In her motion, she cited public health and safety concerns about large flocks and pigeon droppings.

“It has to happen now,” the adviser said. Paul Ainslie (Ward 24—Scarborough-Guildwood), who backed up Wong-Tam’s success movement, told the Star. “It’s quite dangerous to start feeding wild animals.”

Ainslie said he and Wong-Tam had received complaints over the years about constituents feeding raccoons and pigeons. Ainslie said that in her neighborhood a few people feed pigeons every morning and droppings then become a problem.

“You can’t even walk on the sidewalk in this area because people are getting defecated by pigeons,” he said.

As part of its proposed rule changes, Animal Services recommends banning the intentional feeding of wildlife on all public and private property.

The economic and community development committee is expected to deal with the bylaw review on July 6. If then passed by city council in mid-July, the changes will come into effect over the next year.

Here are five key proposed changes to the regulations:

Feed the wildlife

Currently, feeding wildlife is prohibited in the parks, but nowhere else in the city. If the by-law review passes council, wildlife feeding will be banned anywhere in the city from April 2023. Bird feeders, in particular, are exempt from the ban.

Com. Josh Matlow (Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul’s) said that while the food ban is important, education is also key. “By banning wildlife feeding, council will hopefully not only set an important expectation among the public, but also provide important education on why council is making this decision in the first place,” said he declared.

The city would first educate the public about the bylaw changes and address common concerns and misconceptions about wildlife feeding through the city’s website and mailings.

Limits on owning pets

Proposed changes to the regulations also include limiting the number of pets per household to “address animal welfare challenges such as possible neglect and sanitation issues”.

In particular, the proposal would limit the number of guinea pigs and rabbits to a combined maximum of four, and domestic pigeons to 30 on any property during the year and 50 during the breeding season. To arrive at these numbers, the city surveyed similar policies in several Ontario cities.

If passed, the new limits will come into effect in December.

The early days of the pandemic saw an increase in sightings of coyotes and other wildlife in the city.

New permits and fees

The report also recommends changes to pet licensing and new fees for impounding and releasing animals, which will begin once the rule changes are passed.

If Animal Services seizes a prohibited animal, it will cost the owner $140, plus the cost of housing the animal. This is in addition to the $240 fine the city levies on residents caught with a pet on the forbidden animals list – which can include anything from tigers to foxes to poisonous creatures. Residents who return pets to the City will have to pay $59.06 per animal.

The staff report also suggests creating a pet business license (for places such as pet stores, kennels and groomers) to “ensure there are standards and guidelines in place that establish rules for the proper care of animals,” according to an animal services spokesperson.

The details of this suggestion are not yet clear, as staff will report in 2023 on the feasibility and cost of a new pet business license, after consulting with the pet industry, experts in animal welfare, residents and the public.

Slacker bends and scoops

The changes also give “up to 24 hours” for dog owners to remove feces on their own properties.

Dog owners will still be required to immediately remove feces on all other private and public property, but the city hopes this change will give dog owners “a more realistic timeline and more flexibility,” Animal Services said in a statement. written response.

The amendment also aims to “reduce the number of service requests or complaints received about it, while ensuring people clean up after their pets.”

Lighten the load

The reduction in service complaints appears to be a move the city has taken to ease the pressure on animal service staff.

The review of the regulations also recommends that animal services no longer impound cats that “cause harm or create a nuisance”. The department hopes this will allow it to focus on sick and injured cats, instead of confiscating healthy cats, helping to reduce the “large cat population” at city shelters.

While the city’s shelters have decreased their total intake in recent years (4,913 animals in 2016 and 2,125 in 2021), the number of cats they’ve taken in has increased since 2021, according to Animal Services.

The department’s operations, which include animal enforcement, are complaint-driven. As the city has grown, calls for wildlife have also increased.

Although it has been understaffed “on some days” due to the pandemic, Animal Services maintains a team of 33 officers, with an average of 10 to 14 duty officers per day fielding calls, according to a spokesperson.

Staff is requesting an additional $347,000 in the 2023 operating budget to hire three new animal control officers to assist with enforcement.

Angela Liu is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star. Contact Angela by email: [email protected]

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