Calgarians will be able to keep livestock as emotional support animals

Oct 16 2018, 3:55 pm

Chickens, pigs, and miniature horses as live-in companions will soon be a possibility in the city of Calgary, as council has approved a bylaw amendment that would allow for livestock as emotional support animals.

The decision came during a City Council meeting on Monday, October 15, the result of an October 3 meeting of Calgary’s Standing Policy Committee on Community and Protective Services that pushed forward the bylaw amendment to a council vote.

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According to the October 3 meeting’s agenda, the research into the possibility of livestock animals supporting those with mental health issues was started when someone complained to the City last December that a person was keeping chickens in their house.

Chickens, and all livestock, are not currently allowed within the city as pets, though council saw the complaint as “an opportunity for the city to push forward an innovative mental health initiative,” states the agenda document.

The city administration was then asked to work with Alberta Health Services to determine the parameters of allowing livestock in the city for mental health reasons, and the Livestock as Emotional Support Animals (LESAs) program was developed.

With the exception of the Town of Strathmore, which has a bylaw amendment allowing for emotional support Vietnamese pigs, no other municipality in the country has allowed for otherwise prohibited animals to reside with owners for emotional support.

A family in Strathcona County fought a long legal battle in 2014 to keep their pot belly pit Eli with them in their house, but, even with a change.org petition reaching over 16,000 signatures, Strathcona County would not follow in Strathmore’s footsteps by amending the bylaw.

“These bylaw amendments were developed to balance the rights of people in need of Emotional Support Animals with those of other Calgarians,” said Jennifer Lawlor, business strategist for Calgary Community Standards, in an October 15 release from the city.

“We consulted with Alberta Health Services, the Calgary Humane Society, Alberta Farm Animal Care and several mental health organizations to develop the bylaw amendment, policy and processes. We believe these amendments are an opportunity for Council to support mental health in Calgary.”

LESAs in Calgary will still need to be approved by the chief bylaw enforcement officer, and the LESAs program will assist Calgarians in ensuring that adequate space, enclosures, and veterinary care are in place for the approved livestock animals.

Livestock emotional support animal permits will run owners $64 per animal, and the permits may be revoked by the chief bylaw enforcement officer. The officer will also have the authority to impose additional conditions on keeping the animal, depending on the species and circumstances.

The release states that the permit process will be in place by early 2019, though that the city “did not consider wildlife and exotic animals in its recommendations as the keeping of these animals is regulated by provincial and federal legislation.”

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