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Calgary city council takes first step towards recognizing non-traditional emotional support animals

Calgary city council takes first step towards recognizing non-traditional emotional support animals
WATCH: Calgary city council has taken a first step towards recognizing non-traditional emotional support animals within the city. Nancy Hixt reports.

Calgary city council has unanimously agreed to explore allowing non-traditional emotional support animals which currently aren’t allowed in the city limits.

The issue was brought forward by Ward 3 Councillor Jyoti Gondek in response to issues facing Nikki Pike.

Pike has three doctor-prescribed emotional support hens to help her deal with severe anxiety and depression, as outlined in a Global News special series in December.

WATCH: Global News’ three-part series on Pike’s emotional support animals

Chickens are not currently allowed in the city and owning them goes against the responsible pet ownership bylaw because the animals are considered livestock.

There is currently no mechanism to apply for or be granted an exemption.

READ MORE: Calgary sex abuse survivor fights to keep emotional support hens

On Monday, city council approved a motion directing Calgary community standards will work with Alberta Health Services (AHS) to come up with a process, which would include amendments to the bylaw.

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Pike was watching the council meeting online from her northwest Calgary home and said she breathed a huge sigh of relief when she saw the outcome.

“It’s so positive. They’ve shown they are taking mental health seriously,” Pike told Global News.

“This is an essential step in the right direction for our city, and hopefully our province.”

READ MORE: City to re-examine emotional support animal bylaw, ‘Nobody is coming to take those chickens away’

She added she knows her fight isn’t over yet, and she still risks losing her three hens until the bylaw is amended.

Many councillors stated supporting this notice of motion “was a slam dunk.”

Gondek said she’s proud council has taken a leadership role in investigating this issue, pointing out it’s not just a local issue but a global one.

“How are we finding ways to treat people with mental illness in a way that we don’t have to over-prescribe? If this is a method that we can use then we should be looking at it,” Gondek said.

The suggestion is that AHS would license or certify who qualifies to use an emotional support animal. What animals would be allowed would also need to be determined.

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The issue is expected to be back before council in September.