Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw Update passed by Calgary City Council

The update to the Responsible Pet Ownership (RPO) Bylaw passed during the Regular Meeting of City Council on June 2 and will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

Last revised over 12 years ago, the bylaw update recognizes that pet ownership in Calgary has evolved and includes an urban hen program and the expansion of licensing that will oversee regulation of bee keeping.

“Today, pet ownership means more to Calgarians than just caring for cats and dogs,” said Jennifer Lawlor, Business Strategist, Calgary Community Standards. “The new RPO Bylaw is aligned with the needs and expectations we have heard from Calgarians, and balances effective compliance and education in response to new trends in animal care and ownership. We want to acknowledge and thank the 120,000 Calgarians who provided input for this bylaw update.”

The bylaw update was guided by input from comprehensive public engagement; including feedback provided by Calgarians, industry stakeholders, Councillors’ offices, City of Calgary staff, internal animal statistics, best practice information, a municipal scan of 33 communities and extensive industry research.

The updated bylaw continues to create a safe environment for pets and Calgarians. The Chief Bylaw Officer will have the authority to designate animals as vicious, in advance of Provincial Court proceedings, which will decrease the time the animal is held by Animal Services and can go home with safety parameters in place.

An expanded nuisance designation will allow the Chief Bylaw Officer to prescribe conditions for how a nuisance animal is kept to better mitigate community concerns and rehabilitate the animal.

Pet ownership will be limited to six dogs and six cats per household and the number of dogs a person can bring to an off leash area will be limited to six per individual. The bylaw also includes increases to fines for aggressive pet behaviours.

Highlights of changes coming into effect January 1, 2022

Urban hen program
The City of Calgary is developing an urban hen program that will ensure proper housing, care conditions and opportunities to address community-based concerns that are raised. The program will be aligned with national care guidelines and structured similar to other municipalities across Canada that have successfully implemented urban hen programs. The livestock licence program is expected to launch mid-2022. Initial permits in 2022-2023 will be capped at 100 households. Urban hen owners who do not abide by the conditions could have their licence revoked.

Urban bee keeping and licensing
Bee keeping is a successful and growing hobby in Calgary. Through regulation and licensing, The City of Calgary can help address any potential issues and create solutions for the benefit of the bees, keepers and neighbours. The City of Calgary will review what has been working and expert perspectives to determine the licensing program by the end of the year.

Expanded authority of Chief Bylaw Officer
Following a severe injury to a person, severe injury/death to another animal, or other significant safety risks, accused dogs currently wait months in The City of Calgary’s Animal Services shelter until the Provincial Court can hear the owner’s case. The expanded authority for the Chief Bylaw Officer to designate animals vicious will allow the dog to return home once designated, with safety conditions put in place.

Expanded nuisance designation
Currently, an animal can be declared a nuisance when it has repeatedly threatened or committed aggressive behaviour, has been found running at large more than once, repeatedly causes noise that disturbs any person, or the owner has demonstrated an inability to control the dog in an off-leash area. The updated bylaw includes an expanded nuisance condition to help curb further concerning aggressive or nuisance behaviour. This would be determined on a case-by-case basis, where specific controls can be put in place to ensure community safety measures are available in a timely manner.

Pet ownership limitations to curb issues
Challenges addressing smell and noise complaints in households with large numbers of cats and/or dogs help inform a new limitation to ownership of six cats and six dogs per household. The City of Calgary will provide excess animal permits to transition households that already have large numbers of cats and dogs into the new bylaw regulations, as well as accommodate breeders, animal foster households, etc.

Number of off-leash dogs
Individuals will be limited to care for and control no more than six off-leash dogs in an off-leash area at once, for reasonable monitoring. There is no limit to the number of dogs that can be walked on-leash. City Council has directed Administration to consult with the dog walking industry on this item and report back to Council by the end of 2021 with any amendments following.

Threatening situation in extreme temperatures
The bylaw will be updated to remove references to specific temperatures in cases where confinement of an animal places it in a life or health threatening condition. This enables community peace officers or first responders to act when needed on behalf of the welfare of an animal in a confined space in extreme temperatures.

What isn’t changing

Pet licensing
The updated bylaw maintains the current fees for licensing cats and dogs. These fees allow for Animal Services to reunite pets with their owners, care for adoptable pets, manage health and education programs, and run the no-cost spay & neuter program for those who qualify through the Fair Entry Program.

Enforcement of the bylaw
Community Peace Officers investigate through a lens of compassion and empathy while seeking to address the root cause of a problem. Each case is evaluated on an individual basis and officers consider the purpose and context of the situation. They apply objective standards during the application of enforcement to determine if there is an offence.

Barking, biting or chasing behaviours
No changes were proposed to section 23 in the current RPO Bylaw stating that an owner of an animal must ensure that the animal does not bark, howl, or otherwise make or cause a noise that disturbs other people. Similarly, there were no proposed changes to section 25(1) of the current bylaw prohibiting an owner from allowing their animal to bite, bark at, or chase stock animals, bicycles, automobiles or other vehicles.

Complaints will continue to be investigated using objective criteria to determine if enforcement action is warranted.

The bylaw review was directed by Calgary City Council as part of the One Calgary Service Plans and Budgets 2019 – 2022. The update of the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw will help ensure The City of Calgary reaches as many pet owners as possible and creates effective compliance and education of the trends impacting Calgarians and businesses.

In advance of the bylaw coming into effect on January 1, 2022, The City of Calgary will develop programs and licensing in support of the updated bylaw.More information will be made available on, including program and licensing information.