Calgary a step closer to allowing livestock as emotional support animals

A city council committee has approved changes to Calgary's Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, clearing the way for livestock as emotional support animals.

If council approves the bylaw change, the new program would be implemented early in 2019

Some types of livestock could be used as emotional support animals in Calgary after a city committee approved changing the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw. Council as a whole must now debate the measure. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

A city council committee has approved changing Calgary's Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, clearing the way for livestock as emotional support animals.

The proposed change came after a Calgary resident complained a neighbour wasn't properly caring for three chickens in her house.

The investigation found the complaint against Nikki Pike was without merit. But technically, chickens aren't allowed in Calgary.

Pike said that the three hens are emotional support animals who help ease her symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The proposal was debated by council's Community and Protective Services Committee on Wednesday.

Owners of support animals would need $64 permit

The city is looking at requiring a letter from a mental health professional, outlining the need for an emotional support animal.

A citizen could pay $64 for a permit and the chief bylaw enforcement officer could impose conditions on the keeping of the animal.

Nikki Pike says the value of her 'therapy' chickens cannot be overstated. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The applicant would need to have adequate outdoor space for the animal and identify a veterinarian who would care for the animal's health needs.

The permit would also relate to a specific animal.

Certain types of animals would not be eligible. The city says animals like chickens, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs and miniature horses would qualify but more exotic animals that are prohibited by the province would not.

Chickens ease anxiety

Pike told the committee that her three hens have made a difference to her quality of life.

She was a victim of sexual assault and abuse earlier in her life. Chickens were in her backyard in B.C. as she was growing up and they provided her with solace.

It was something she rediscovered years later.

"I have regained the joy and the things in my life that I had previously lost interest in. This is all because I have three fluffy ladies that I can rely on to be there when my anxiety starts to creep back in," said Pike.

The committee approved the plan, which will soon be discussed by city council.

Councillor sees merit in plan

Coun Jyoti Gondek brought forward a motion to amend the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw to allow for some types of livestock as emotional support animals.

"This is something that we're trying out and if it helps one family prevent a suicide, I think it's something worth looking at," said Gondek.

Pike said that she hopes her efforts can help others as well.

"I don't think that everybody with anxiety will benefit from chickens but I do know that those of us who have suffered trauma and do have a history with these animals could, can and should have the opportunity to," she said. 

If council approves the bylaw change, the new program would be implemented early in 2019.


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