Do you plan to raise a lot of rabbits? You could be the target of a City of Toronto crackdown

If you’re planning on raising rabbits and guinea pigs, or feeding wild animals, or you’re just a dog owner who picks up your dog’s poop every day, then you’ll want to know a whole new set of Toronto city rules. take into account.

After two years of study, municipal licensing staff are recommending sweeping changes to the parts of the municipal code that relate to animals. Get special consideration: the number of fast-breeding animals you will be allowed to keep.

“Some people don’t know if they have boys and girls and when boys and girls are together then you end up with a lot more,” said Esther Attard, director of Toronto Animal Services (TAS). She is also one of the contributors to a new report.

“Guinea pigs and rabbits breed very quickly, so you may end up with a lot… more animals than expected.”

The suggested changes are based on submissions from city councillors, the public and city staff, Attard said. Councilors will take a first look at the proposals when the Community Development Committee meets next month. The council will likely hold a final vote on the plan by the end of the year.

Attard says animals like rabbits can quickly produce enough offspring to overwhelm the average pet owner. She cites the case of a Toronto household that saw its rabbit population grow from a handful to more than 80 in a matter of months. (Mike Smee/CBC)

City staff recommend that each household be limited to four rabbits or four guinea pigs. Why? Attard cites the example of a family in Toronto who decided earlier this year to raise rabbits and sell them as pets.

“It’s a lot harder to do than you think,” she said. “And then they find themselves in a crisis.”

What crisis is Attard referring to? Well, eventually their house was invaded by 80 rabbits.

Haviva Porter, executive director of a group called Rabbit Rescue Inc., supports limits. She says she hears stories similar to the one Attard describes all the time.

“They thought they were the same sex, and all of a sudden, behold, there are a dozen baby bunnies,” she said.

“Nothing can be done once you have a household with so many animals, so many rabbits that aren’t cared for properly. So boundaries are important.”

Another proposal would limit fanciers to 30 birds, except during the breeding season, when they will be allowed 50.

Haviva Porter, executive director of Rabbit Rescue Inc., says she supports limits on fast-breeding pets like rabbits and guinea pigs. (Submitted by Haviva Porter)

There is also a proposed general ban on feeding wildlife. Currently, it is only illegal to feed wild animals in city parks. The new rules will ban the practice citywide.

Last weekend, in Westlake Park near Weston Road and Black Creek Drive, a coyote bit a child, prompting the city to warn residents not to feed wild animals – a practice that Attard says leads to many problems.

“It conditions wild animals to expect food from people. And then a person can have a bad interaction with a wild animal.”

In addition, staff suggest the City codify a practice that has long been tacitly permitted: pet cats and pigeons roam freely in the city.

A coyote walks past a playground in Alberta last year. One of the new proposals would make it illegal for the public to feed wild animals anywhere in the city to reduce interactions with humans. (Scott Sugden/University of Alberta)

But once it becomes law, the city will also require municipal shelters to stop accepting stray and nuisance cats. Currently, stray felines may be dropped off at the local municipal shelter by annoyed neighbors. It’s then up to TAS to try to reunite the animal with its owner, which can be a long, complicated and sometimes fruitless task, she says.

While she’s generally supportive of the changes, Porter of Rabbit Rescue Inc. says she has some questions for advisers ahead of the new rules’ adoption.

“What would happen in situations where very good owners had six rabbits? Are they going to be grandfathered? Should they get rid of the rabbits when shelters or sanctuaries are already full?” she says.

“I think there’s a lot of fear that foster homes will be exempt. Will shelters, pet stores be exempt? Who’s going to monitor it and who’s going to enforce it?”

The municipal licensing and standards report includes a recommendation that three new by-law officers should be hired at a cost of $347,000 per year.

One of the new rules would prevent people from dropping off neighborhood strays, so-called nuisance cats, like this one at the city’s animal shelter on Progress Avenue in Scarborough. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

But Attard says she expects the app to be done in a measured way. For example, she says people won’t be banned from using garden bird feeders as long as the excess food doesn’t spill onto the ground where other animals, like rats, can get to it. .

But she admits the app could be tricky, when it comes to identifying individual bird feeders.

Several other municipal code changes are also included in the report: Currently, dog owners must immediately remove feces from their own property. The report recommends that giving them 24 hours to do the job is “a more realistic time frame”.

The report also suggests pledging to support any initiative by the province to ban cosmetic surgeries for pets — things like tail docking and ear clipping for dogs and declawing for cats, Attard said.


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Jennifer R. Strohm