Doug and Karen Cannings adore their three dogs Shadow, Maggie and Foxy and their three cats Fluffy, Peppy and Ms.Grey.

But if the town of Waldheim has its way, the Cannings will only have two dogs and two cats by mid-November.

The town, located about 50 kilometres north of Saskatoon, has a bylaw stipulating that residents are only allowed a maximum of two dogs and two cats at a single residence.

It starts with a letter

The couple registered all six pets in November 2012, but this May they received a letter from town council ordering them to get rid of one of their dogs — they have two Pomeranians and a Shih Tzu — and one of their cats.

If they don't, there could be stiff fines.

Waldheim pups

The Cannings can't understand why they may have to get rid of a cat and dog. (CBC)

For instance, if they miss the Nov. 15 deadline, they will be fined $100. Thirty days after that, the fine goes up to $500 — and then it's $500 a month until they comply.

The Cannings say they moved to the town of 1,000 from their acreage in northern Alberta because they hoped they’d be able to get their autistic, 33-year-old daughter into a respected long-term care home there.

Provincial funding has not come through for their daughter so she has not been able to begin living at the home and with the prospect of having to get rid of their animals looming, the Cannings say they wish they had never come.

'Our pets are not bothering anyone' - Doug Cannings

"Our pets are not bothering anyone and we are looking after them and trying to fit into the town. But obviously they are going to stand by their little bylaw," Doug Cannings said.

Cannings is elderly – and some of his pets are too. His beloved barn cat Ms. Grey is almost 16 years old. The thought of having to get rid of one of his pets brings tears to his eyes.

cannings cat fluffy

The Cannings cat, Fluffy, has a special bond with their autistic daughter. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

“They’re part of the family, that’s all I can say,” Cannings said.

He said he explained his situation to Waldheim’s town administrator, Chris Adams, and was promised he would be permitted to keep all of his pets, as long as he didn't replace the extra ones if they died.

Cannings says he was satisfied with the verbal agreement and thought everything was fine, until he got the letter from the town signed by Adams, who declined an interview with CBC. 

"I'd like to fight it. Like, I don't want to give up one of my pets," Cannings said.

Taking the issue to council

He attended a Waldheim town council meeting in August and made his plea to keep his pets. They said no.

Waldheim Mayor Barbara Shultz says the bylaw was created in 2008 out of necessity.

Bylaw created out of necessity

“We were having some trouble with pets at large. People move into our community and they say ‘Well, I moved to a small town from the city so I could let my dogs run around,’” Shultz said.

In a written statement, Shultz said Waldheim isn't the only community to put numerical limits on pets.

"Waldheim is neither an unfriendly town nor an unreasonable one," she said. "We are simply trying to implement a bylaw that is fair to our entire community and to make it a safe, peaceful, and healthy place to live for pet owners, and non-pet owners alike.”

However, the Hutt family, which lives across the street from the Cannings, are also in violation of the bylaw. They have three dogs in their home, yet have been given a one-year exemption before they face fines.

Alice Hutt says although the town made a concession in her favour, it's not fair that the rules have been applied differently.

'Most people don't even know there is a two dog limit bylaw' - Alice Hutt

“Most people don’t even know there is a two-dog limit bylaw," she said."I am sure that if most people knew what Doug and Karen are going through, they would be appalled."

The Hutts have signed an agreement with the town of Waldheim stating that when their teen daughter moves out next year to go to college she will take their third dog with her.

Alice Hutt says she doesn’t understand why the town’s city council is treating the Cannings differently.

“If I had had an animal for that long and loved an animal that much — I couldn’t give up that animal. How do you choose which animal to get rid of,” Hutt said.

“You have these animals that you’ve loved, your daughter with special needs loves these animals — how do you choose which one of these animals to rip away from her?”

The Cannings say they don't have answers yet.

They plan to continue to fight the town, and say there may be a Facebook campaign in the works.