Calgary now accepting applications for livestock emotional support animals

Nikki Pike sits with her three emotional support hens at her Calgary home. Dani Lantela, Global News

Calgarians can now apply for permits to keep livestock emotional support animals (LESA).

The City of Calgary amended the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw back in October 2018 to allow residents to keep LESAs on their property, but Friday marked the first day applications for the permits became available to the public.

“With this new permitting process, we are pleased to be able to meet the needs of Calgarians while ensuring animal welfare remains a top priority,” spokesperson Aalika Kohli said in a news release.

To be approved, applicants must include a letter from a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, recommending the animal as part of a treatment program for mental health.

The contact information of a licensed veterinarian that can provide specialized care for the livestock, and an alternate home for the animal outside of Calgary should the permit be revoked or if the owner is no longer able to care for the animal, are also required.

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Before a permit is issued, the city says a site visit will be conducted to verify the yard has the necessary space to properly care for the animal.

In addition, the city’s planning and development requirements must also be met in the event that a structure to house the animal is built by the owner.

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Nikki Pike is a sexual abuse survivor who uses emotional support hens to cope with severe anxiety and depression.

“There’s always been this uncertainty as to whether or not someone was going to take them away,” she told Global News.

“This is going to give me confidence that they’re here, they’re mine, they’re safe.”

LISTEN: Nikki Pike and her support chicken Noodle joins The Morning News to discuss the work Noodle does for Nikki

Pike says her public fight to keep her hens has garnered her a lot of attention, with people reaching out to her online, saying they’re thankful she has paved the way to get bylaws changed.

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“The team [at the City of Calgary] working on this has done a really wonderful job in keeping me in the loop,” she said. “It’s been really humbling and encouraging.”

Although Pike thinks the application process is straightforward, she said she still feels anxious that the future of her mental health is essentially in the hands of whomever decides whether or not to approve her application.

“Until I have the actual documents I’ll be a little apprehensive,” she said.

Dogs, cats and other domestic animals that provide emotional support do not require a LESA permit as they are allowed under the Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw, but do require a licence.

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