When news broke of Calgary’s bylaw change to allow livestock as emotional support animals, responses ranged between outrage, support and confusion. The reason why this motion was brought up by city council can be traced back to one woman’s struggle with anxiety and the solace she found in three hens.
Throughout her childhood and teen years, Nikki Pike dealt with instances of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, but she could always turn to her family’s chickens for comfort.
After Pike left home and started her own family in Calgary, her anxiety continued and was heightened during the delivery of her first child when she dealt with a case of abuse and negligence at the hospital.
The turning point came when Pike borrowed three newly hatched farm chickens when her family was featured in a news story. Her two young sons had been inspired by Pike’s stories of her hens and began a petition for chickens to be allowed in the city.
While Pike took care of the chicks, she and her husband noticed she had more energy throughout the day and that her overall mental health had drastically improved. What began as a lesson for sons in active citizenship soon became an endeavor to permanently keep her chickens.
Jyoti Gondek had been a city councillor just three weeks when she read Pike’s story online. Gondek says she took the situation seriously and soon after brought up a bylaw motion before city council.
The amendments to the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw were made on October 15 and will come into effect in 2019.
Gondek says she hopes the bylaw change will provide Calgarians with an alternative non-prescription-based solution for addressing their mental health. She also encourages Calgarians should take the time to read about the regulation before jumping to conclusions.
“People who don't take the time to read about a bylaw … and then weigh in with very nasty remarks towards a person who is already dealing with mental health issues, those people have a responsibility to educate themselves.”
For Pike, news of the approved bylaw change came as long-anticipated victory.
“I started to cry and shake, and I was sort of in disbelief,” she says. “I was really unsure how it was going to play [out] and there was so much relief, and it felt like this weight just dropped off me, and then I went outside and snuggled the girls. That’s how I celebrated.”
- By Andrea Wong