More than 10 years ago, Calgary food advocate Paul Hughes was in a flap about urban chickens.
He pressed the city to allow the pet poultry in a backyard chicken campaign that began in 2008.
It even landed him a court summons as he contravened the city’s animal bylaw by harbouring a handful of fowl. The charge was later withdrawn.
“When I started CLUCK (Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub), now over 100 chapters across North America, I did not think it would take 12 years to convince Calgary city council to do something very sensible,” Hughes told LiveWire Calgary.
“They should have done this before when they reviewed urban agriculture five years ago, but they deliberately left hens out.”
Want to understand citizens’ view on wide range of pet ownership areas: City
Now, the city is examining it as a part of a responsible pet ownership bylaw review – but it might not mean we’ll see Hughes’ chickens come home to roost.
“We don’t know if we’re contemplating to allow them, but we’re wanting to understand Calgary’s view around them,” said Jennifer Lawlor, business strategist with Calgary Community Standards.
Lawlor said Calgarians’ views on these animal areas have evolved substantially since the bylaw was last updated 12 years ago. They’ll not only be looking at chickens but emotional support animals and beekeeping, too.
Those will be among six focus areas the city is soliciting public input on. They’d like citizens to share their thoughts on wildlife in Calgary, feral and stray cats, urban agriculture (animal related), vicious dogs, licensing and administration.
These themes have been generated through consistent public feedback over the years, Lawlor said.
“We know that these are places where some Calgarians have concerns and we’re wanting to get a sense of that broader perspective of Calgarians,” she said.
Lawlor said it’s too early to talk about whether this would mean substantial changes to things like allowing urban chickens or increased license fees or a boost in fines for pet owners not picking up after animals.
She said they’re looking at a wide range of areas and asking broad questions so they aren’t leading citizens in a certain direction. They want to get a spectrum of opinions to modernize the responsible pet ownership bylaw.
“We’re really investigating all the options and looking at ways to improve both the safety and the livability of Calgary,” she said.
Wing and a prayer?
Hughes recognizes that this is just a step in pet ownership evolution.
“There’s no guarantees this will be successful, so I seriously encourage anyone who supports the ethical and responsible treatment of hens as pets to HENgage! with the city,” he said.
Calgarians can provide their feedback through the city’s website, or in person, from Feb. 26 to March 18.
This input will be collected to develop potential amendments to the city’s bylaw. More feedback will be sought on those amendments before presenting the proposed bylaw changes to council in early 2021.