Owning horses: Open house on 10 March 2016

Just a heads-up that the RDOS is coming back to the issue of "keeping livestock".  This aroused some interest especially on the West Bench. The main thread on the issue is here.


You may recall that the fundamental problem with the existing bylaw is that it has been amended in dribs and drabs over the years and has become difficult to enforce.  Hence the need for a re-write.

We have already met with many people with views on this issue. The recommendations from these groups have been noted but are not yet reflected in the official RDOS proposal.  This state of affairs may be frustrating for those who have given us feedback--what is the point if their feedback is not reflected in the proposed bylaw?  Please appreciate that the RDOS needs to be concerned with process. A local government cannot go off, meet with small groups, and change bylaws.  Instead, our professional planning staff makes a recommendation, this recommendation is presented to the public, and we make changes only after full and open dialog with anyone who cares to weigh in on the matter.

Having said this, I would like to reiterate what I have heard so far:

  1. It is possible to have too many horses on the West Bench (the people with many horses on relatively small properties).  So generally we want to keep and enforce the historical restrictions.​
  2. Metrification of the bylaw (to hectares) creates problems for lots subdivided into acres.  Thus, we will likely keep the threshold for horse ownership at 0.4 Ha (1 acre) rather than 0.5 Ha, which is nice number on paper but an odd size on the West Bench.
  3. The argument has been made that one horse is never a good situation for the welfare of the animal.  Accordingly, we could relax the lower end of the bylaw so that two horses are allowed on properties between 0.4 and 1.0 Ha in size.
  4. (slightly different issue on the same topic): Roosters will be explicitly excluded:

“small livestock” means poultry, rabbit or other small animals similar in size and weight but does not include farmed fur bearing animals or roosters.

You can comment below, email me your thoughts, or attend the public meeting if you would like to be heard on this matter.

These changes are also summarized in this update.  Note, however, that RDOS planning staff is now less keen on "usable area" provisions.  Such provisions are likely too subjective to be workable.

Update 10 March 2016:

Just to summarize, here is a comparison of the existing bylaw and our most recent thinking on the matter (not yet reflected in any official RDOS planning document):

I have received some push-back on the relaxation on horse ownership on the low end. The basic reasoning is that two horses on a relatively small property (1 acre) is twice as bad as one horse if you are the neighbor.  Note, however, that the middle range has not changed much.  Thus, a person with a 1.2 Ha (~3 acres) could keep three horses under the old bylaw and three under the new bylaw. 




I disagree that roosters should be excluded. A rooster performs important functions in a flock of chickens beyond reproduction, including protection from predators among other, more subtle roles. Personally I like the sound of a rooster crowing, it adds to the charm of the neighborhood and reinforces the feeling that this is not just another cookie-cutter subdivision.

Agreed that one or two roosters in the neighborhood add to the rural ambiance.  The problem is five in one backyard making noise 24/7.  Unfortunately bylaws are often a reaction to the worst case, not the best case or even the typical case.

I also must object to the limit of 5 "small livestock" on parcels between 500 and 2,500 m2. My land is approximately 2,000 m2 and the property could easily support 15-20 chickens or ducks. We purchased this property with the intention of raising poultry for eggs and meat, aiming to reduce the environmental impact of our food supply by producing as much of our own as possible. Besides this product, the birds provide other benefits such as pest and weed control, as they scratch and eat bugs, and conversion of food waste into beneficial eggs, meat and fertilizer.
In fact I believe that we may have chosen to live elsewhere if this bylaw was in effect when we purchased our property. Please take this into consideration; I would suggest lowering the limit for the 25 birds to 2,000 m2 as this change would exempt all the larger West Bench lots, yet still limit to 5 the newer subdivisions up the hill. Certainly I am not suggesting that 25 birds on a 5,000 ft2 lot is a good idea. Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback.

You may or may not have a good case for an exception to the proposed bylaw.  Like any land use bylaw you have the right to seek a variance (Development Variance Permit or DVP).  We typically see DVPs for things like fence heights or setbacks.  But this is no different.  In a DVP planning staff considers the merits of your request, seeks input from your neighbors, and passes the issue to the RDOS board for consideration.  The downside is that you have to cover the cost of this process (user pay).  A DVP is currently $400.

My point is that anyone can challenge any land use bylaw if they feel they can make a case.  I get the sense when talking to people that they think it is not worth the effort or that the chances of success are too low.  This surprises me.  DVPs are often granted, especially when the neighbors are on board.

Some versions of the draft bylaw floating around out there are missing definitions.  This is an oversight.  Here are the critical ones:

livestock” means horses, cattle, sheep, swine, llamas, ratites, goats, farmed game and other similar animals;

small livestock” means poultry, rabbit or other small animals similar in size and weight but does not include farmed fur bearing animals or roosters.

Livestock was not defined in the previous (2008) bylaw so the addition does not really change much.  Pigs and goats have always been allowed on larger properties (1 acre +) in Area F.

The small livestock definition now precludes roosters (see Rick's comments above).  This is a change reflecting common practice in other jurisdictions that permit chickens.


Good day Michael I would like to see a updated version of the comparison between the old bylaws and the ones proposed as the one used in this article is not correct. I just picked up the most current version as of March 8,2016 and the lot sizes used are quite a bit different to the ones you have used and in order to have two horses a person has to have a property of at least 0.8 ha. in order to have three horses a lot must be at least 1.2 ha. so your numbers are misleading in that you are not using the same lot sizes and the bylaw is not close to those numbers of livestock that you have represented.

A caveat is attached to the table above:

Just to summarize, here is a comparison of the existing bylaw and our most recent thinking on the matter (not yet reflected in any official RDOS planning document)...

Staff is working on updating the bylaw based on feedback from the public meetings earlier year.

My husband and I made the decision to buy property on the West Bench and move here with our children in order to give them a "rural" experience while living in close proximity to all the amenities Penticton has to offer. Naturally horses were part on the plan and the horses proved to be a delightful addition to our lives.We cannot stress strongly enough how life in a mixed-use area of small estate farms, orchards, green houses, large gardens, chickens, rabbits, pigs and especially horses have enriched ours lives and our children's upbringing. We never had any complaints from our neighbours. In fact, the opposite happened. People thanked us for having horses. Horses being loved and cared for and used. It gave them the chance to enjoy country living without the activity of caring for livestock.
Electoral Area F is not Electoral Area D and therefore cannot be compared. We bought here because of the diversity. Raised our children here because of the experience of "country" living. Let's keep the horses ( and one horse alone is cruel) and keep West Bench as country estates with all that entails.

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