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Ward 3 News: Emotional Support Animals: How does a city manage a provincial issue?

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Ward 3 official website

As a city councillor, the wellbeing of Calgarians is a priority for me. When I hear about a resident who is actively doing her part to care for herself and her family in the face of an illness, it’s devastating to learn that our municipal policies are interfering with her path to wellness. Although the intentions of our Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw are positive, the unintended consequences in one particular case deserve special attention. Let me explain briefly.

One of my fellow residents in Ward 3 has three hens as emotional support animals to help her deal with issues of depression and anxiety that had previously left her shattered. This woman has boldly come forward to tell her story as it became apparent that a municipal bylaw may force her to part with these hens. Ms. Pike has been open and transparent about her emotional support hens, actively seeking information from all sources about how she can keep them at her home without disrupting the lives of her neighbours. Unfortunately, a neighbour complained to the City of Calgary and bylaw officers had to be deployed to Ms. Pike’s home. Because she is technically in violation of the municipal bylaw dealing with livestock, we now have a situation where she risks losing her emotional support animals.

Two things are important in this narrative. First, had the neighbour taken the time to speak with Ms. Pike directly and questioned her about the hens, it’s my feeling that s/he would not have filed a complaint. Understanding the context of these animals is critical in this situation. However, we have become a society that is more comfortable calling 311 than knocking on a neighbour’s door to have a conversation. I’m comforted to see that her community has rallied to support Ms. Pike now that she has made her story public, and I hope that this will draw much-needed attention to becoming more community-minded and being a compassionate neighbour.

Second, I am proud to work for an organization that sees the human side of situations. Since this issue came to my attention a couple of weeks ago, the Ward 3 team has been working with Ms. Pike and City Administration to see what can be done. Because we recognize the significance of these animals and this form of treatment on Ms. Pike’s wellbeing, it is our perspective that the provincial government is the key to a reasonable solution. Alberta Health Services and the medical profession recognize that this form of therapy allows Ms. Pike to address her illness in a productive manner; she has documents of support from her doctor and health officials. Therefore, the province needs to provide the City of Calgary with a mechanism that allows our bylaws to accommodate her hens.

Next steps for me will include further conversations with my colleagues, and bringing a Notice of Motion forward in the new year that enables Administration to recommend the best course of action in dealing with situations where non-traditional animals can be treated as pets rather than livestock. We are seeing more diversity in the ways we deal with illness, as well as what we consider to be a pet. Our bylaws need to keep up with the pace of change, with support and guidance from our provincial counterparts who have jurisdiction over healthcare matters. The focus here should be the wellbeing of people like Ms. Pike, and building flexibility into policies that are silent on contemporary urban issues like this one.




This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.

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