Saanich changes rules on chickens, deer, rabbits and dogs

“Dogs, deer, rabbits and chickens, oh my!”

That’s how Coun. Dean Murdock kicked off an animal-centric committee off the whole meeting Tuesday night.

Councillors unanimously supported bylaw amendments to allow dogs on Cordova Bay beach, rabbit populations kept in check and backyard chickens legal in many more homes. Council also agreed to a ban on feeding deer.

Murdock, who 18 months ago brought forward the motion to look at allowing backyard chickens, says he’s thrilled to see so much support for the issue.

“This moves us toward a direction of food security for Saanich residents,” he said. “It means we’re starting to recognize the regulatory changes that need to be made for people to start providing for themselves.”

Council supported the motion to allow up to five hens on a single-family property 6,000 Square-feet (557.4 square-metres) or larger. This will allow for more than 90 per cent of homes to keep chickens if they so choose.

The support brings Saanich in line with neighbouring municipalities like Oak Bay, Victoria and Esquimalt, which all allow backyard chickens.

“If this is acceptable in Oak Bay, surely it should be acceptable in Saanich,” Murdock said, adding the new rules will allow residents with chickens to move here from another jurisdiction.

Council also supported a number of bylaws to help curb the feral rabbit population in the municipality. The bylaws will prohibit the sale of unsterilized rabbits in pet stores, prohibit the feeding of rabbits in parks and public spaces, and prohibit the abandonment of rabbits on private or public property.

A bylaw banning the feeding of deer was also supported, and councillors recommended staff look at amending fence height restrictions.

As well, dogs will no longer be banned from Cordova Bay Beach from May through August. They will be allowed on the beach until 9 a.m. during those months.

Councillors agreed that an education process will be key to ensure the bylaws are understood by residents to create a “harmonious” animal-human relationship in the municipality.

Did you know?

Regardless of the bylaw amendments, residents of Broadmead are prohibited from keeping chickens in their yards. That’s because when the neighbourhood was developed roughly 30 years ago, a number of covenants were put in place for all residents, including prohibiting poultry, banning home-based businesses, restricting clotheslines and disallowing boats and RVs to be parked on a property.

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