Okotoks residents can now have chickens, goats, sheep, and other livestock animals for emotional support. 

During Monday’s council meeting, a bylaw to create a pilot project to allow livestock to be emotional support animals was passed. 

Council had to pass an amendment to the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw as well, to include livestock as licensed animals. Under that revised bylaw, a livestock animal includes the following:

  • Horse 
  • Mule
  • Donkey
  • Swine 
  • Emu 
  • Ostrich 
  • Camel 
  • Llama 
  • Alpaca 
  • Sheep or goat.
  • Domesticated deer, reindeer, moose, elk or bison
  • Farm-bred fur-bearing animals like foxes or mink
  • Bovine animals
  • Avian species such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pigeons or pheasants

During the discussion of the bylaw, Councilor Hallmark proposed an amendment that the animals must be no more than 180 kg or 396 lbs. The original bylaw declared the animals to be no more than 225 kg or 496 lbs.

That amendment was passed.

The idea for this project came after a request from a resident who recently moved to the community stating they had an emotional support livestock animal and wished to keep it. 

Under the new Bylaw, residents will need to apply for a license if they wish to have livestock for emotional support. 

Okotoks is not the only Alberta municipality to introduce this kind of bylaw.

In 2018, the City of Calgary amended its Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw to allow for livestock emotional support animals. 

Tara Loewen, Leader of Animal Care and Pet Licensing with the City says the program has been successful so far.

“When we did start the program, it was received very positively from the people who really do need a program like this,” she said. 

Since 2018, Loewen says they’ve had 107 people apply for permits. Those permits require a letter from the applicant’s psychologist or psychiatrist stating that they would benefit from having this emotional support animal. 

So far, they’ve approved animals such as sheep, chickens, and ducks.  

Meanwhile, Okotoks Municipal Enforcement said it doesn't foresee a heavy demand for these animals.

While Loewen acknowledged hiccups like noise complaints and public safety concerns, they’ve been resolved quickly. 

“They are usually rectified with the officer going out, speaking to the person who has the animals, confirming that they have the permits, they've done everything legitimate, their housing for that animal is right in line because they do have to make sure that they do have the proper care and housing for these animals.” 

Some of the issues presented in the original bylaw included noise, odour, public safety, and the need for more health regulations. 

Under the bylaw, those who take part in the program must ensure the animal is taken care of, there are no offensive smells, and the animals are not causing a nuisance to neighbours.

Municipal Enforcement will receive feedback throughout the program and that information will be given to Council in a report at the end of the one-year pilot.