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Bylaws and Off Leash Areas

Bylaws and Off Leash Areas

Bylaws and off leash areas

The following is a brief summary of the City of Markham's Animal Control By-law taken from the City's By-law Guide for Markham Homeowners (see Related Links for By-law Guide topics).

In this section:

Animal Control By-Law Summary

Although pets can be a delight to their owners, they can also be a cause of conflict among neighbours. In order to ensure that pet owners respect other residents, the rules for caring and keeping animals are very clear.

What You Must Know - Protecting and Caring for Pets

Animals in Markham must be provided with a clean, sanitary environment and adequate care that meets the physical and behavioural needs of the animal, such as food, water, shelter, warmth, physical exercise, attention and veterinary care.

Pets are not allowed to run about and create a nuisance, disturb neighbours or cause damage to property.

If your dog or cat is found running freely, it will be returned to your home if it’s wearing an identification tag, or taken to the shelter if it is not.

For animals kept on a tether (a chain, rope or other restraint), the length must meet the needs of the animal, provide unrestricted movement and cannot cause injuries. A dog’s tether must be a minimum of 3 m (10’), provided this length does not permit the dog to go beyond the boundaries of the property.

The City can place a pet in temporary protective care for up to five days when the owner cannot, or will not, care for it. During this time, its owner may claim the animal after paying the costs for its stay in protective care; if not claimed, the animal will go to the OSPCA shelter.

The shelter assumes total responsibility for such animals, provides veterinary care if necessary, and has the right to put the animal to death if it’s not claimed or is too ill or injured to survive. It will be kept for at least five days (not including federal or provincial holidays). The owner must pay all costs incurred at the Pound before the pet can be taken home.

Registering Your Dog or Cat

Within 30 days of becoming the owner of a dog or cat, you must register your pet, pay an annual licensing and tag fee, and provide a certificate that proves it has been vaccinated for rabies. In exchange, you will receive an identification tag that must always be displayed on the animal’s collar (this includes animals that have a microchip identification implant). This tag cannot be transferred to another animal.

The number of mature dogs (16 weeks and older) and cats (over 3 months old) that can be kept in each home is four, in any combination of:

  • two dogs and two cats; or
  • one dog and three cats; or
  • four cats.

If you owned more than this number before June, 2005--the date this by-law came into effect—you are automatically allowed to keep the pets for the rest of their life.

Special Rules for Dogs

See also Dog Owners' Liability Act Information Frequently Asked Questions

Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act clearly outlines your responsibilities as the owner of a dog. Our City’s rules are based on this Act.

Dogs must be kept on a leash of 2 m length (6 ‘- 6”) or less when off your property. You must always ‘Stoop and Scoop’ (clean up any feces it may leave) while walking your pet off your property.

You can take your dog off its leash where signs clearly show it is a leash-free area, or if someone you are visiting permits it on their private property. You are expected to keep your dog under control at all times, or restrain it, to prevent aggressive behaviour and biting. No dogs are permitted within 5 m (16’- 4”) of a children’s playground or water-play area.

If your dog bites, and pierces the skin, you will be served with a formal warning (in person or by mail). This may include a ‘Notice to Muzzle’, which means:

  • you must tether or keep your pet in a fenced area while on your property,
  • only someone 16 years or older can take the dog off your property, and
  • it must wear a muzzle (a device that restricts the animal’s mouth) and be kept on a leash at all times.

A second offence will automatically result in this notice, and you may also be prosecuted.

Quarantine for Rabies

Your pet will be kept by the City (or at a private facility at your expense) for 10 days in quarantine, if it:

  • bites a person; or
  • is suspected of being exposed to rabies.

It will only be released with permission of the Medical Officer of Health or the Manager, By-law Enforcement and Licensing.

Keeping Other Types of Animals

Livestock, such as cows, pigs and sheep, cannot be kept in residential areas. You may not keep or trap wild animals within City boundaries unless you are permitted to do so by law. Contact the By-law Enforcement and Licensing Department at 905-479-7782 to find out if you qualify.

‘Prohibited animals’ cannot be kept within City boundaries unless you have permission to do so. These include protected or endangered species. The list is long; it includes all wild dogs, cats and birds, venomous and poisonous animals, and certain reptiles and insects. Prohibited Animals (Exotic) list

Prohibited Pets List:

No person shall keep any of the following animals, whether it be on a temporary or permanent basis:

  1. All squirrels
  2. Reptiles
  3. Birds (predatory)
  4. Arachnida and Chilopod
  5. All venomous spiders
  6. All large rodents
  7. All even-toed ungulates (goats, cattle, deer, sheep)
  8. All odd-toed ungulates (horses)
  9. All marsupials
  10. Sea mammals
  11. All elephants
  12. All hyrax (shrew mice)
  13. All pangolin (anteater)
  14. All sloth and armadillo
  15. All insectivorous mammals
  16. Gliding lemur
  17. All other venomous or poisonous animals

A member of a recognized pigeon club (one that is part of a national club) can keep up to 30 domestic pigeons or doves (not wild ones), as long as their ‘loft,’ or cage is separate from the home and has at least 1 m2 (10.78’ square) of space for every 10 birds. Each bird must wear a leg band that identifies its owner; they cannot stray onto any other property; and you must contact the Manager, By-law Enforcement and Licensing, if you intend to release the birds for planned activities.

Up to three mature rabbits (seven weeks or older) can be kept on any one property, but only as pets. An outside cage must be designed to keep them warm and prevent escape.

To keep doves and pigeons, or rabbits outdoors, your property must be large enough that their cage is at least 3 m (10’) from your property boundary and at least 7 m (23’) from any other home, shop or apartment building.

Dog Off Leash Areas

All pets must be leashed in Markham parks, except in off leash areas.

A permanent Leash-free dog area is established at the northwest corner of Miller Avenue and Rodick Road, as shown below:

Dog off leash area location map

Apply to establish permanent Dog Off Leash Area

Applications for new dog off Leash areas in Markham are submitted to the Leash Free Markham Committee for review. If the application meets all the guidelines, it will be forwarded to staff for review, and ultimately to Council for consideration.

Rules of conduct for Markham Dog Off Leash area:

  • Every dog must be under the supervision and full control of an adult. Dogs may not be left unattended in the off leash area.
  • Dog owners are responsible to clean up after their pets. All dogs must be licensed and current on all shots, including those for kennel cough.
  • Dogs must be kept on a leash until inside the off leash area, and put back on a leash before leaving the off leash area.
  • Residents are advised to closely supervise children within the off leash area.
  • Residents are encouraged to spay or neuter their dogs if using the off leash area.
  • Users must respect all rules posted within the off leash area.

Leash Free Markham Committee

The Leash Free Markham Committee is an Advisory Committee appointed by Council. The committee is run by volunteers and is responsible for the overall organization of off leash free areas under the guidelines approved by Council.

Related Information

When In Doubt, Check It Out! Help Is Always Available.

For more information call the By-law Enforcement and Licensing Department at 905-479-7782 or email

Related Information: