stray cat feeding

An Opportunity for Change

| December 1, 2021

Toronto Humane Society’s Response to City Council’s Animal Bylaw Review

The City of Toronto is in the middle of an important review of its Animal Bylaw. They want to update certain parts to better protect animals, their guardians, and create a safer, healthier relationship between residents and the city’s wildlife and domestic pets.

Toronto Humane Society has been actively supporting animals in the city for nearly 135 years, so this review, and the proposed changes that could follow, come as welcome news to our organization and community.

Below is Toronto Humane Society’s direct response to the City Council’s Review, along with some concerns and suggestions based on our experience as a leader in animal welfare.

View the city’s review and fill out the survey here.

Feeding of Wildlife

Toronto Humane Society fully supports the recommendations made by the city that would restrict most intentional feeding of wildlife on public and private properties.

From local trails, to parks, even backyards, many well-meaning Torontonians feed wildlife without knowing the consequences. These consequences range from wildlife dependency to unnecessary loss of life. An example of this is the recent incident involving a coyote in a North Toronto park.

We would also like to thank the city for clearly identifying certain exemptions to these recommendations, such as the feeding of managed cat colonies.

As a proud member of the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition, we, the City, and our partners work hard in providing humane care to the 20,000 to 100,000 homeless cats in Toronto. Humane community cat management—which includes feeding and sterilization—is needed to care for these vulnerable animals.

Pet Licensing

We believe that any enhancements to the current pet licensing system should be based on inclusivity, transparency, and flexibility. They should be looked at through a progressive lens, one that emphasizes engagement with the pet owning community.

Enhancements should also take into account those pet owners who are economically disadvantaged or those facing systemic barriers in society. These disadvantages and barriers, compounded by inflation, rising costs of living, and the lack of accessible veterinary care, are putting immense pressure on people and their pets.

A continuation of the annual fee-based system will add to this pressure.

Therefore, we recommend any enhancements to consider:

– Free pet licensing with annual renewals;

– One time, paid life-time licensing in place of annual renewals (given the transparent, accessible platform which details where the licensing fees are going, we recommend an annual impact report for pet owners to see the direct and real value of their fees);

– Finally, if unable to provide one-time paid or free licensing for all, serious thought of reduced fees for qualifying low-income households should be given.

Responsible Pet Ownership for Pigeons, Rabbits, and Guinea Pigs

All animals can and do suffer from neglect, not just dogs and cats. So we appreciate the city acknowledging that previous limitations were too narrow in scope.

However, we feel that the current considerations for review still do not go far enough. For example, the section of By-Law Article III, 349-6. Responsibility to care for animals needs to consider appropriate intervention and management of all domestic pets suffering neglect or mistreatment.

Finally, adjustments to limitations will not resolve the underlying challenges associated with overwhelmed caregivers or animal hoarding situations. These include economic and social barriers, societal stigmas, as well as access to mental health support. Thought and deliberation should be spent on remediation and support programs, along with a guideline for limits surrounding ownership numbers.

Animals that people can keep as pets

Toronto Humane Society stands with Humane Canada on their position of Wild or Exotic Animals as Pets.

Wild or exotic animals are often acquired without full knowledge of their health, welfare and behavioural needs. Many of these needs cannot be met when these animals are kept as pets, which can often result in suffering, poor welfare, abandonment or death.

Therefore, Toronto Humane Society supports improvements to animal restrictions. We also support a move from a “restriction based” list to a positive one. A positive list will not only be more comprehensive, but more clear for the city’s residents to understand.

We are willing to work with the city in any way to help raise awareness on wild or exotic animals as pets.

Cosmetic Surgeries on Pets

Medically unnecessary surgery—from declawing to tail docking—happens more often than it should in Toronto. Despite most of Canada banning the practice, Ontario still permits it. We therefore strongly encourage the city, through whatever means available, to limit or prevent this practice from occurring within Toronto.

We join Humane Canada, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and many others, in strongly opposing unnecessary cosmetic procedures on any animal.

Toronto Humane Society applauds the City Council for listening to and engaging with the community on these important issues. By offering Torontonians a survey to share their thoughts, this review will spark conversation and raise awareness in a broader sense. 

Have your say

What do you think about these issues? Take the survey to share your thoughts and help steer the city’s bylaws in the right direction.