Thoughts on Responsible Pet Ownership


For a number of years, pet owners in Winnipeg have argued with the City of Winnipeg’s Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw. I’ve written about the bylaw several times in my column, and for the most part, it seems like pet ownership in our city has been protected by concerned pet owners. The bylaw was revived last summer, when the city began public consultation on possible changes.

The result has been many online discussions, many letters to the editor in the Winnipeg Free Press and numerous discussions within the municipal commissions.

Attempts to restrict exotic pets more than they already are have been abandoned by the city for the time being, and for good reason. The current system works, and while it may be too restrictive in some areas, pet owners have found they can live with it. It is often said that any agreement between two parties that does not satisfy either of them is generally a fair agreement. This seems to be the case here.

Two other proposed changes to the RPO bylaw were ultimately not approved by the city council.

The first was an urban chicken pilot project. It had been recommended that 100 licenses be issued as part of a pilot program for small backyard flocks. But then bird flu began to spread across North America, which meant the possibility of those flocks becoming infected and spreading this dangerous virus, and the board rightly did not pass that change to the bylaws, continuing the ban on urban chicken farming.

The second change that was not made was the proposed removal of the race-specific provision from the RPO. As it stands, even though the OPR contains provisions prohibiting dogs that are in fact dangerous dogs, it also prohibits “a dog that has the physical appearance and characteristics…” of a pit bull terrier , an American Pit Bull, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier. These bans have been shown in numerous studies to not work, and nearly every municipality that had one has reversed it. The city’s policy executive committee, the Winnipeg Humane Society and even animal services agreed it was time to remove this provision from the bylaw, but the city • ultimately voted 9 to 7 to keep the ban in place. .

Yes, you read that right. The council, led by the mayor, voted against the recommendations of everyone consulted.

The bylaw is meant to encourage responsible pet ownership.

“All animals have the potential to be dangerous – large and small – and many animals mimic the behavior of their owners,” said Jessica Miller, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Karen Mitchell, an attorney working on the case, said “Winnipeg is regulating the wrong end of the leash.”

The regulations provide for severe penalties for owners of dangerous dogs, and these are more than sufficient to protect citizens. We don’t need an anachronistic settlement in the books, a fear based solely on how something looks or the past actions of individual animals that have been mistreated and trained to be aggressive.

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Just a side note, on bird flu, because there have been a lot of questions about feeding wild birds.

Yes, wild birds can carry the virus, but songbirds rarely do. The threat songbirds pose to humans is statistically insignificant.

Although there have been recommendations to improve the sanitation of wild bird feeders, there have been no formal recommendations that people should dispose of their bird feeders, except those who have commercial flocks or those involved in bird rehabilitation. As a precaution for potential infection, in these specific cases, it is best to remove the feeders.

It also makes sense to me that if you safely attract birds to your feeders, you help keep them away from commercial flocks or other potential trouble spots.

Jeff McFarlane

Jeff McFarlane
Pets are people too

Jeff McFarlane is the owner of Thrive Pet Food Market. Contact him with your questions or ideas.


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