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Unconventional Comfort: City to re-examine bylaw, ‘Nobody is coming to take those chickens away’

Click to play video: 'Unconventional Comfort: ‘Nobody is coming to take those chickens away’' Unconventional Comfort: ‘Nobody is coming to take those chickens away’
WATCH: A Calgary victim of sexual abuse has been on an emotional rollercoaster, battling bylaw to keep her emotional support animals. The city has told Nikki Pike she can't keep her therapy chickens. But now there’s been a change of heart. Here is Nancy Hixt with Part 3 of her special series, “Unconventional Comfort." – Dec 20, 2017

It’s the news Nikki Pike has been desperate to hear: She’s allowed to keep her three therapy hens. At least for now.

“Immediately I reached out to our law department and asked for an adjournment in the file, that’s the number one thing I could do,” Richard Hinse said Wednesday following a Global News series highlighting the issue.

Hinse is the director of Calgary Community Standards. He said adjourning the court case buys the city administration time to properly research the issue and come up with possible amendments to the bylaw that could be presented to council.

“Nobody is coming to take those chickens away. That isn’t going to happen,” he said.

It’s a complete shift in what Pike was originally told by Calgary bylaw officers.

“Relieved…it is a huge weight off of my shoulders,” Pike said.

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Pike’s three chickens are doctor prescribed emotional support animals used to help treat her severe anxiety and depression.

Earlier this month, someone complained to bylaw and she was told she couldn’t keep the birds. Chickens are not allowed in the city, owning them goes against the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw because the animals are considered livestock.

The issue is currently very black and white. There is no mechanism to apply for or be granted an exemption.

Pike’s city councillor, Jyoti Gondek said it’s time to change that.

“It’s beyond time. We absolutely need to move forward,” Gondek said. “It’s not black and white, there’s a lot of greys…and when someone’s health and wellness is on the line we need to look at that grey area.”

Gondek said she will bring forward a notice of motion to amend the current bylaw at the next city council meeting at the end of January.

“My fellow councillors and I can have a discussion about what needs to happen here,” Gondek said. She said her goal is to involve Alberta Health Services in a proposal to have emotional support animals exempt from the bylaw on a case-by-case basis.

Pike knows the battle to keep her hens isn’t over yet, but said she’s happy to see the issue is at least being re-opened for debate.

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“I think we have to place our trust in our city council and hope they are going to be fighting for what’s right,” Pike said.

Pike said it’s also about creating a shift in attitudes towards mental health and animals that may be considered “unconventional comforts.”

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