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Urban hens allowed as Calgary’s pet bylaw approved at council

Some Calgary homes will be allowed to have backyard chickens after a new responsible pet ownership bylaw was approved Tuesday.

There will be a cap on the number of cluckers though.

On day 2 of Calgary’s combined meeting of council, they debated and amended the city’s bylaw, which had been left over from May’s Community and Protective Services committee meeting.

While there were several changes on the bylaw, which hadn’t been updated in 12 years, urban hens were a primary source of debate.

Councillors defeated a motion from Coun. Sean Chu to remove the urban hens from the bylaw, instead ultimately opting to approve it. There were concerns about predator attraction, noise, and cleanliness.

“There’s so much risk in dealing with, like I said, the fecal matter, the cleaning, where it’s actually disposed, all this kind of stuff,” Sutherland said.

“You’re supposed to wash your hands … There’s so many protocols that were there. And I’m not sure everybody would be doing that.

Other councillors said it’s time to get on with allowing them.

“If we can create belts and braces so that the majority is cool with it, who the heck are we to say, ‘No, you can’t,’” said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.  

“That just seems so unbelievably overwhelming.”

Cap on hens

After some further debate, the overall bylaw was approved. Coun. Jeff Davison proposed a motion arising putting a cap on the number of urban hens. It was amended from 50 licenses to 100. That was approved.

Should there be more than 100 applicants for licenses, the city would find a way to manage who gets the birds. The city is in the process of developing a clear set of guidelines for those applying for the chickens.

“There was discussion on a first come first serve however, that goes contrary to what was already written a bylaw around remaining equitable,” said Jennifer Lawlor, with the City of Calgary.

“So, the I think the most likely scenario, it would be a lottery system. But we would ensure that it would be equitable.”

Council will review the number of licenses in 2023, for potential changes in 2024.  

Other changes to the bylaw

The bylaw also capped the number of dogs and cats in a residence at six per household. It also limits the number of dogs that one person can have at an off-leash park.

Coun. Evan Woolley said the feedback that he’s received from those in the dog walking industry said it disrupts their business model.

“What we would end up with is a bunch of people not having dogs walked at home, a bunch of dogs stay in the houses for too long and poorly behaved dogs,” he said.

Woolley attempted to amend the bylaw to allow for more, but it was defeated.

Pets will now be deemed unclaimed after 72 hours in the pound, or seven days after being notified by the city.

All changes go into effect with the bylaw on Jan. 1, 2022.