Wording in Nanaimo’s animal responsibility bylaw will be altered at the request of the provincial government.
The bylaw was sent to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for approval earlier this year. The ministry responded with changes in definitions it wants made before giving the bylaw the nod, specifically around areas of the bylaw where municipal and provincial jurisdiction cross over regarding which animals are considered wildlife and who actually owns them.
Karen Robertson, deputy city clerk, explained during a council meeting June 7 that there are certain species of finch that are kept as pets, but are also considered wildlife, and that quail can be raised domestically as poultry, but are also considered game birds, which fall under provincial wildlife regulations.
“Some of the animal cruelty provisions cross over into it as well … The ministry’s policy and legal staff, they wanted to make a few minor amendments for clarity purposes and I think their biggest concern was with the definition of ‘owner,’” Robertson said.
Also, when it comes to wildlife, the ministry is actually considered an owner.
“That was something that we learned and so they wanted to ensure that the definition of ‘owner’ was clarified to explicitly exclude the government of B.C.,” Robertson said.
The government also wanted assurance the bylaw doesn’t apply to “activity or conduct” already authorized by a permit or licence issued under the B.C. Wildlife Act or the Animal Health Act. Robertson said one person in Nanaimo is authorized to have a number of alien species for their personal use.
The ministry also wanted changes to wording around seizure and impound provisions.
“As it’s currently worded, [municipal] animal control officers can, technically, go out and retrieve sick or injured wildlife through the overarching branch definition of ‘animal’ … legally, it has to state that it would be their responsibility,” Robertson said.
Coun. Don Bonner asked for clarification on whether enforcement action would be complaint-driven and where that is stated within the bylaw. Robertson replied that is the city’s “overarching” policy.
“We don’t have the staff to go around and drive and look for these things, so it is definitely complaint-driven and, also, we have the existing policy … that people have to be directly impacted by it,” she said. “So again it prevents somebody from seeing there’s a bylaw in place and pulling out a clipboard and driving around the community, pointing out infractions. You need to be definitely affected by it and also the primary concern is the care of the animals.”
Sheila Gurrie, city clerk, reiterated that bylaw officers would not enforce proactively unless they personally witnessed an infraction and would then follow the city’s overall policy to educate the animal owner and try and get compliance before resorting to enforcement.
Council voted unanimously to pass the bylaw amendments, which will be forwarded to the province for final approval.