Toronto is in the process of modernizing regulations to improve our co-existence with wildlife, a necessary move after a rise in human/animal interactions resulted in a spike of people feeding animals.
The results of a review of city bylaws will be presented at July’s meeting of the Economic and Community Development Committee.
Among the recommended changes is an expansion to the city’s current ban on feeding wildlife in parks to a city-wide prohibition. The hope is the change will limit negative interactions between humans and animals.
“A lot of issues with wild canid, so foxes and coyotes, happen because people are feeding them,” said Dr. Esther Attard, Toronto’s Chief Veterinarian and Director of Toronto Animal Services.
“That’s a big issue, because it creates problems for everyone.”
Dr. Attard said many people feed wild animals because it makes them feel good, while others do it because they think they’re doing a good deed. In reality, they couldn’t be more off the mark. In addition to changing animal behaviour, she said the scraps fed to Toronto critters are akin to giving them junk food and can make them ill.
If approved by council, the feeding prohibition would come into effect next April. Private property would be included, but the bylaw won’t affect bird feeders for songbirds.
“The way we approach these types of things is to educate people and have them come into compliance that way,” said Dr. Attard, “and if people won’t, then there is escalating enforcement.”
Urban wildlife photographer Andrew Budziak agrees escalating the ban should be a priority. But as someone who has documented how animals coexist in cities as a means to inform people on the importance of sharing habitats, Budziak said education should be the top priority.
“I don’t think people intentionally go out to harm animals — in fact, quite the opposite. They think they’re doing good,” Budziak said.
“People think by hand-feeding they’re being kind to these animals, but they’re not and I think that truly comes from just a lack of understanding.”
Part of that responsibility, he said, ultimately falls to the public educating themselves before they head out on a hike or bike ride.
Along with expanding the feeding prohibition, the city is also looking at adjusting rules for how many animals can be kept in a home, extending the time given to people to pick up dog waste from their own property, and removing the authority to impound problem cats which often ties up efforts to help sick animals.