Hens and bees can now be kept in backyards, while cat owners will face new regulations after Dawson Creek City Council passed sweeping changes to its animal control bylaws Monday.
Under the new rules, homeowners in certain neighbourhoods will be allowed to keep hens and bees in their backyards.
Council began reviewing the issue last summer after an appeal from Cynthia Broberg, a hen owner who had been told by the city to get rid of her birds.
According to Broberg, around 60 per cent of British Columbians live in cities that permit backyard hen ownership. At a July meeting, she told council that owning hens provided her family with a steady supply of eggs, making them more self-sufficient.
The new bylaw allows homeowners to keep up to six hens (roosters are still banned.) The city will charge a onetime license fee of $20 to hen owners.
Bee colonies were later rolled into the bylaw.
Anyone who owns a single family home and is a provincially registered bee keeper can now keep up to four honeybee hives on their property. The city will regulate the placement and size of the hives, which will pay for itself through another $20 licensing fee.
While the bylaw passed unopposed, Councillor Mark Rogers was skeptical, arguing anyone wanting to practice backyard agriculture was free to move to the country. He also voiced concerns that the new bylaw would lead to "backyard goats."
New law makes cat registration mandatory
Included in the expanded bylaw are rules that the SPCA says will curb the population of feral cats in Dawson Creek.
The bylaw makes cat registration mandatory and anyone failing to do so can be fined. Up to now, only dogs had to be licensed in Dawson Creek.
The city will charge between $5 and $200 to license a cat, which covers the cost of registration. Those with spayed and neutered animals with electronic identification will pay the lowest fee. The law also limits the number of cats a person can own to four.
SPCA Shelter Manager Wendy Davies brought a proposal for a cat licensing scheme to council earlier this year. She said cat bylaws are common in many B.C. municipalities.
Fort St. John does not regulate cats.
Davies said the licensing fees will lead to fewer instances of animal abuse and neglect by controlling the feline population.
Permanent identification rules would also make it easier for the SPCA to return lost cats to their owners, she said.
They will be the “exact same rules” for registering dogs, she said, adding that forms are available at the SPCA shelter, veterinarians and pet stores.