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Municipal laws

Region: Ontario Answer # 4003

Most municipal animal laws are concerned with the licensing, control and care of companion animals (mostly dogs and cats). As with provincial laws, municipal by-laws vary from one jurisdiction to the next. Generally, these laws cover issues such as: dogs on leashes, pet owner responsibilities, illegal dog breeds, and the provision of adequate housing, food and medical care.

Dogs and cats

As dogs and cats are the most common pets in Canada, many cities have by-laws exclusively devoted to the registration, licensing, and control of dogs and cats. In Ontario, this includes:

Other municipal legislation regarding the ownership, licensing and control of animals in Ontario includes:

Sale of animals in pet stores

Some cities have by-laws that limit or better regulate the sale of animals in retail stores. The main reasons for this include:

  • the sale of animals at retail stores reduces the likelihood of abandoned pets being adopted
  • animals sold in retail stores are often unsterilized
  • many animals sold in retail stores have been raised in puppy or kitten mills

Owning exotic animals and animals in circuses

An increasing number of cities across Canada have by-laws that limit or regulate the keeping of particular species of animals or “exotic” pets within the jurisdiction for circus shows. These bylaws were enacted due to concerns regarding:

  • the cruel ways that performing animals are often trained;
  • the stressful and impoverished conditions in which the animals often live; and
  • the well-being of the general public whose safety may be threatened when exposed to wild, dangerous, and sometimes sick animals.

The Ontario Municipal Act allows local municipalities to pass by-laws regarding the prohibition, regulation and licensing of exhibitions, menageries, circus riding, and other similar kinds of shows.

Currently, however, there are only a few municipalities, including Cobourg and Stratford, with bylaws banning wild or exotic animal shows or wild or exotic animals in circuses.

Ontario’s new Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, 2019 also covers, to an extent, the treatment of animals in circuses, by providing that no person shall cause an animal to be in “distress”. Distress is defined as “the state of being in need of proper care, water, food or shelter or being injured, sick or in pain or suffering or being abused or subject to undue or unnecessary physical or psychological hardship, privation or neglect.”

Chickens and roosters

Kitchener, Ontario has a specific bylaw regulating the ownership of chickens and roosters, including how many it is legal to own and how they must be kept.

To find out more about what municipal animal laws exist where you live as well as the punishments for committing offences, contact your provincial or municipal government, local SPCA, or humane society.


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