WINNIPEG—National animal law organization Animal Justice will present to Winnipeg City Council today as the Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks considers significant amendments to the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw (“RPO Bylaw”). The three recommendations on the table are: (a) eliminating Winnipeg’s ban on pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs; (b) introducing an urban chicken-keeping pilot project; and (c) delaying action to improve regulation of exotic animal ownership in the city by a further year.
The latest recommendations follow phase one recommendations by Animal Services that were approved by Council in January 2022. Those included standards for “doggy daycares”, banning lethal wildlife taps, and regulating cat and dog breeders in the city.
Animal Justice applauds Animal Services for recommending the elimination of Winnipeg’s outdated and ineffective pit bull ban. The majority of Canadians oppose breed bans, and studies of municipalities across Canada show that such bans do not reduce the number or severity of dog bite incidents. Winnipeg’s dog-bite hospitalization rates have remained virtually unchanged since its pit bull ban came into effect more than 30 years ago.
“Pit bull bans have been shown time and time again to be unscientific and ineffective when it comes to improving community safety,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, Winnipeg-based staff lawyer with Animal Justice. “Winnipeg regulates the wrong end of the leash, targeting specific breeds rather than irresponsible owners. Animal Services is absolutely correct that rather than focusing on how a dog looks, the City should introduce strong prevention and enforcement tools to promote responsible dog guardianship.”
Animal Justice, along with the Winnipeg Humane Society and a host of animal protection groups, rescue organizations, and sanctuaries across the country are opposed to the urban chicken-keeping pilot project being proposed by Animal Services. In written submissions to the Committee, these groups have raised the alarm about the serious risks to chickens’ health and well-being that such a program would pose, given that hens often live for more than 12 years but their egg production declines relatively early on in life. Promoting the keeping of backyard chickens for egg production would also put a significant strain on local groups left to shelter and care for unwanted chickens.
In recent days and weeks, the highly infectious and deadly H5N1 avian flu has been sweeping across Canada and the United States, with many outbreaks linked to backyard flocks. Proceeding with the pilot project would pose serious health risks to wild and farmed birds throughout Manitoba, as well as to public health. Written submissions to the Committee from a Canadian infectious disease specialist outline these serious public health risks and urge Council to reject the proposed urban chicken-keeping project
“Urban chicken keeping does nothing to address food insecurity,” said Mitchell. “On average, it costs more than $1,000 to set up a coop. On top of that, there’s the cost of upkeep, veterinary bills, and feed, putting urban chickens out of reach for most low income families struggling to make ends meet. There is absolutely no justification for proceeding with this project, given the serious risks that it would pose to animals and public health, not to mention the significant public resources that would be needed for adequate oversight.”
Winnipeg’s regulation of the ownership of exotic animals is outdated and ineffective, leaving thousands of species of animals to be kept in Winnipeggers’ homes despite the fact that many are not well-suited to a life in captivity. Given the urgent need to protect exotic animals, public health and safety, and Manitoba’s environment from risks associated with poorly regulated exotic animal ownership, Animal Justice is calling on the Committee to reject the request by Animal Services for a further one year extension on taking action to strengthen legal protections for exotic animals. It is calling on the Committee to ensure recommendations are put forward as soon as possible after the fall municipal election.
“More and more species are introduced into the exotic pet trade every day, and Winnipeg’s RPO Bylaw is not keeping pace,” said Mitchell. “With more than 800,000 exotic wild animals kept as pets in Manitoba and Saskatchewan alone, urgent action is needed to ensure that animals sold and kept in the city are suitable for life in captivity and do not pose risks to public health and safety, or to the natural environment.”
The Standing Policy Committee meeting starts at 9:30 CT and can be viewed online. A number of other groups are scheduled to present, including the Winnipeg Humane Society, End BSL Manitoba, and Zoocheck.
Written submissions to the Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services, and Parks regarding Phase 2 of the RPO Bylaw review can be found here.
For more information, contact:
Staff Lawyer, Animal Justice