A new Red Deer dog bylaw is being postponed after city council raised questions on Monday over the designation of aggressive dogs, controlling pets in public areas and fines for first-time licence offenders.
Council deferred a decision for up to six weeks so administration could address the issues.
Councillor Lynne Mulder heralded the bylaw for addressing aggressive dogs for the first time but was concerned with a policy to be used to evaluate dogs for aggressive behaviours.
That policy includes six levels, one being the lowest in severity.
She said that Level 1 gave her some concern because it speaks about dogs who growl, bark and lunge.
These are natural behaviours when dogs feel threatened, she said.
The policy should apply to dogs who do these actions “without provocation,” she said.
Councillor Tara Veer frowned on the bylaw, suggesting a $250 fine for those who didn’t licence their pooch.
“I understand compliance is around 50 or 60 per cent (when it comes to licensing),” she said. “The $250 seems extreme on a first-time offence. Some people may not legitimately know.”
Councillor Cindy Jefferies questioned how much control was needed for dogs in public areas when the owner is being responsible.
One owner wrote to City Hall saying he was infuriated that an owner could be fined $250 for throwing a ball for a dog, since it is considered to be off leash and at large.
“Common sense should prevail,” Jefferies said.
Bylaw research co-ordinator Jennifer Smith said animal control officers will have discretion on whether to fine someone.
Smith also the city doesn’t have council’s mandate, the resources or provincial authority to enforce existing provincial animal welfare legislation.
Councillor Gail Parks said animal welfare issues are of concern to a number of people and wondered if bylaw officers could handle animal welfare complaints. Potentially, this could be done, Smith replied.
“We see irresponsible owners with dogs in the back of a truck . . . when it’s hot, cold, rainy,” Parks said. “It’s something that totally irks me.”
Red Deer and District SPCA executive director Monte Greenshields said the animal welfare authority, the Alberta SPCA, only has one officer for all of Central Alberta.
“The city says we aren’t set up to do (animal welfare) through our current service provider,” he said, referring to Alberta Animal Services. “That doesn’t mean we can’t have rules for animal welfare.”
He would also like to see the bylaw focus more on education and less on penalization.