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Tillsonburg's first dog bylaw introduced in 1919

In 2020, Tillsonburg’s Animal Care and Control Bylaw, which provides for the licensing, regulation and control of animals within the town has 17 parts, dozens of definitions, and more than 100 subsections.

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Last revised in 2011, it’s a 21-page document that covers animals at large, seizure and impoundment, licenses, and more. It includes poop-and-scoop rules (Part VI). It defines how many pets you can keep (eg. two cats, three dogs) and which pets are currently prohibited (it’s an extensive list).


Things were simpler 101 years ago when the Town of Tillsonburg introduced a new dog bylaw at its March 17, 1919 council meeting ‘to govern the keeping of dogs in town.’

It did not pass unanimously, however. One Councillor argued dogs were of no real use to townspeople and the town did not need any dogs at all.

In the March 20th Tillsonburg Observer it was noted a draft bylaw had been introduced at Town Council by Deputy-Reeve A.S. Rennie, proposing annual fees of $5 for each male dog and $10 for each female. In 1919, dogs were allowed to roam at large in town, which had a population of just under 3,000 people.

The point of contention was not whether or not there should be a license fee. It was… how much?

Reeve J.W. Allin stated those fees were too high and wanted them reduced to $2 and $4. Allin said he had talked with a number of citizens and many thought it would be a hardship to pay so much for the privilege of having a pet dog for the children in the home.

Councillor L.N. James asked for an explanation of the purpose of the bylaw.

Mayor Dr. Henry McQueen replied that it was intended to produce a revenue for the town and at the same time free the streets from ‘useless and valueless dogs.’ Citizens who had dogs that they really cared for would not object to paying a reasonable fee for the privilege of letting the animals run at large, and persons who did not value their dogs would probably ‘get rid of them.’

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Deputy-Reeve Rennie said that although he had accepted the duty of introducing the bylaw, he thought the proposed fees were rather high, and he made a motion that they be reduced to $3 and $6.

Councillor F. Kicksee agreed the proposed fee was too high and seconded Rennie’s motion.

Councillor W.J. Putman felt that the proposed fees were rather high, saying some citizens had dogs that they desired to keep and would not wish to destroy who could not afford to pay so much for the privilege.

Councillor James favoured leaving the fees at $5 and $10. Dogs are, as a rule, of no real use to the townspeople, he said, and anyone who wanted to keep a dog and allow it to run at large should be willing to pay the amounts named. He thought the town did not need any dogs at all. He moved that the fees be allowed to stand as in the draft bylaw.

Councillor S.E. Barrett expressed his approval of Councillor James’ views and seconded his motion, however, it was the motion offered by Rennie and Kicksee ($3 and $6) that secured the support of a majority of the Councillors present.

As passed, Tillsonburg’s 1919 dog bylaw set the fees at $3 and $6; the fee was to be paid to the Chief Constable before May 1st each year; the dog was to carry a municipal tag attached to its collar; ferocious dogs could be destroyed by the Chief; and at any time that conditions made it necessary to do so, the Mayor could, by proclamation, order that dogs be muzzled or tied up.

Today, 101 years later, dog licence fees in Tillsonburg are $17/$22 if the licence is paid before March 31st, and $35/$40 after.

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Were you wondering what pets are prohibited in Tillsonburg in 2020? (I bolded some of them.)

Tillsonburg’s current Animal Care and Control Bylaw states that ‘no person shall keep, harbour or possess any animal or animals of any of the following classes in the Town of Tillsonburg… all marsupials (such as kangaroos and opossum)… all non-human primates (such as gorillas and monkeys)… all felids (such as lions and tigers), except for the domestic cat… all canidaes (such as wolves and hybrids), except for the domestic dog… all viverridae (such as mongooses, civets and genets)… all mustelids (such as skunks, weasels, otters and badgers), except the domestic ferret… all ursidae (bears)… all artiodactylous ungulates (such as domestic goats, sheep, pigs and cattle)… all procyonids (such as raccoons, coatis and cacomistles)… all hyenas… all pinnipeds (such as seals, fur seals and walruses)… all snakes of the families pythonidae and boidae… all venomous reptiles… all ratite birds (such as ostriches, ernus, rheas, cassowaries)… all diurnal and nocturnal raptors (such as eagles, hawks and owls)… all edentates (such as anteaters, sloths and armadillos)… all bats… all crocodilians (such as alligators and crocodiles)… all arachnids (such as tarantulas)… all prohibited dogs… all galliformes (such as grouse, pheasants, turkeys)… all anseriformes (such as ducks, geese, swans)… all sciuridae (such as prairie dogs, giants squirrels and flying squirrels)… all perissodactylus ungulates (such as horses, ponies, donkeys and zebra)… all elephants… and any other exotic animals not specified above.’

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