Pet limits pondered in West Nipissing

·4 min read

Rural and urban residents of West Nipissing may end up with different rules for how many furry friends they can own. There may even be different rules for each neighbourhood, depending on the specific density zoning.

The current bylaw allows all households, whether in an apartment or estate lot, to own no more than two dogs and two cats although livestock guards are exempt.

The topic was raised last year when a resident requested an increase but the West Nipissing Non-Profit Housing Corporation warned against making a rash decision.

Municipal staff members were put to work on the issue and a comprehensive report has been included in the agenda for tonight’s council meeting. Staff provided a draft bylaw that marries the previous individual cat and dog licencing bylaws, as well as updates the language around service animals and dangerous dogs.

It is also suggested that council “may wish to discuss whether there should be a difference in the number of allowed pets in the urban and rural zones or even within different zones in the urban area.”

Bylaws from a variety of municipalities, cities, and towns that take multiple approaches were included for comparison. Sudbury, for example, doesn’t limit how many neutered animals someone can have but only permit two unaltered dogs and two unaltered cats. Temiskaming Shores allows up to five dogs and five cats while Elliot Lake limits it to three of each. The report states North Bay and Espanola don’t specify limits. In Sault Ste. Marie, residents can own three dogs and five cats. Mattawa doesn’t even have a cat bylaw, just a "Keeping of Dogs" bylaw with no specified limit.

The cost of licences differ even more between municipalities. In West Nipissing, a dog licence costs $20 but only $4 for a neutered dog with a microchip tracking device. A licence for a cat is $30 but there’s a $10 discount if proof of a rabies vaccine is provided.

The issue was sparked by email correspondence to the municipality on September 25, 2019, from new resident Carrie Anderson. She moved to Sturgeon Falls from Sudbury in 2018 and was asking council to consider increasing the limit on cats to four.

“My cats are indoor cats and my pups are on harnesses and lead when outside,” Anderson said, adding she cleans up after them always.

Like many pet owners, she rescued two of her cats from a shelter and is very attached. She outlined all the neutering and shots given to them and said her two dogs were trained from puppies as emotional support dogs.

“Even just increasing the current limit would make a huge difference within communities and the resources being utilized to combat homeless and unwanted animals,” she said.

With the issue being raised, the housing corporation wrote the municipality to highlight “grave concerns” about increasing the limits of pets within rental dwellings.

“We are confident that, should you question other landlords whether they are private, public, co-op, or other social housing, they will all say that increasing the number of pets especially in rental units is detrimental to the operations,” the letter states.

“We are a non-profit organization which has faced, and are still in the midst of, major repairs to a number of our units due to tenants whose pets have left foul odours embedded into the walls, floors, cabinets, etc., not to mention the mess that these pets and pet owners have left behind.

“The costs to repair these affected units are extremely high, let alone the lost revenues because of time to repair such,” they said, noting the time and financial impact ripples through to those on a waiting list for accommodations.

“We have seen this issue rise significantly in the last few years as more and more tenants acquire multiple animals and leave their pets to roam the grounds, do not follow the ‘poop and scoop’ bylaw, let their pets make numerous holes on our property which makes it dangerous, unhealthy and unpleasant for other tenants…

“We, as a landlord, disagree with the increase of owning, harbouring, keeping, having possession of animals in our rental units and find that the current bylaw of two cats and two dogs is more than fair for rental units,” administrator Jacques Dupuis wrote.

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca