If you saw a squirrel running around in a park and wished you had some nuts to share with the little guy, you’re not alone.
Feeding the ducks at High Park, pigeons at Yonge and Eglinton, or the squirrels at Trinity Bellwoods has become a favourite pastime for many Torontonians. But as of April 1, 2023, residents are “not allowed to feed wildlife or leave food out to attract animals on both public and private property,” according to Chapter 349 under the city’s Animal Bylaw. If you do, you may be faced with a $365 fine.
The bylaw was first proposed in 2021, but the city recently updated the bylaw to help educate residents on the negative impacts of feeding wildlife. While feeding wildlife may seem harmless, it can have serious impacts on both animals and the community.
When wild animals are fed by people, it conditions them to expect food from us and increases their proximity tolerance which puts them at risk. Additionally, human food is very unhealthy for wild animals. Just think about how the sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates in bread, cereal and crackers could negatively affect a little squirrel’s body.
Wild animals are skilled foragers and hunters and can find sources of higher quality food on their own. And while we may feel the need to feed them, “wild animals do not need our handouts. Letting animals use their own natural instincts is the only kindness they need,” according to the city.
The goal of the new Toronto Animal Bylaw is to encourage residents to respect the natural habitats of wildlife and enable them to thrive independently.
These new regulations do not apply to feeding the songbirds on private property as long as the bird feeder is above grade so that it does not attract, or is accessible, to wildlife. It must be kept in sanitary condition and in good working order. If food is spilled from the bird feeder, the property owner is responsible for removing it in a timely manner so that it does not attract wildlife.
Wildlife does not include feral or stray cats, so Colony Cat Caretakers can continue to care for community cats. Under the Provincial Animal Welfare Standards Act, 2019, a person that has custody or control of an animal that is kept outside for a continuous period of over 30 minutes should provide the animal with an enclosure.
If there is a complaint or information about a possible violation, Bylaw Enforcement Officers will investigate, provide education or take enforcement action. The City aims to first provide education around the new bylaw regulations to explain why they are important to the safety of both wildlife and the community.
If you have any questions about the City of Toronto’s Animal Bylaw, please visit this webpage.
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