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Metro Vancouver residents can now apply to keep farm animals as emotional support pets

The range of animals people want to keep seems to be expanding, with condos and cities fielding requests for animals other than a dog or a cat.
the-city-of-port-coquitlam-is-accepting-applications-for-people-who-want-to-keep-farm-animals
The city of Port Coquitlam is accepting applications for people who want to keep farm animals as emotional support pets. But they need to prove they need the animal for disability-related needs. Photograph By GETTY IMAGES

Not everybody wants a dog or a cat as a pet — sometimes only a goat or a pig will do.

Port Coquitlam residents can now apply to keep a farm animal as an emotional support animal and may be allowed to keep their special pet  — even in a residential area— if they meet certain conditions.

Calling the move an example of city leadership, Coun. Nancy McCurrach said the special permitting idea was a good one. during Tuesday’s Zoom council meeting.

But not every case will be allowed; the bylaw services manager will have the responsibility to decide if someone can keep a farm animal as an emotional support pet in a residential home.

The range of animals people want to keep seems to be expanding, with condos and cities fielding requests for animals other than a dog or a cat.

One condo law company based in Ontario said people are seeking to keep a whole new range of animals. But not everyone is on board with offbeat pet choices and sometimes problems arise.

Denise Lash of Lash Condo Law notes how a kerfuffle started when a condo owner in Florida became embroiled in a dispute with his condo association about his pet squirrel. “He claimed that the squirrel was an emotional support animal that helped him deal with post-traumatic stress following a car accident,” Lash states in her blog.

Similarly, Port Coquitlam has already been fielding complaints about people keeping goats, pigs and chickens in their home, which prompted the bylaw amendment giving the city more control.

People can now apply, and may be allowed to keep the critter if they can provide a letter from a doctor or a psychiatrist stating they require the farm animal for a disability-related need.

But the approval process now gives the city more clout — it can say no, or, if approval is given, require the owner to maintain the animal in such a way that it doesn’t create problems for other residents, such as keeping down the odour.

Port Coquitlam isn’t alone in permitting farm animals as emotional support pets. Calgary recently allowed citizens to have a Livestock Emotional Support Animal (LESA) on their property, with similar requirements to Port Coquitlam, although Calgary requires a $65 permit and a site visit.

In that city, the property must also be large enough to support the animal.

Most people are familiar with therapy animals that are trained to support people with disabilities and receive special certification. Emotional support animals are, however, a growing trend and offer people another option for dealing with trauma.

As for local interest, Port Coquitlam says it doesn’t anticipate many applicants, there is no permit fee and the most likely animals sought for emotional comfort are pigs, goats or chickens that are being kept as a domestic pet and not a farm use.

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