Dog bylaw unleashed

Compassion with teeth is how Red Deer city council is describing its new dog control bylaw.

Compassion with teeth is how Red Deer city council is describing its new dog control bylaw.

“I would still like it to be called the dog owner’s bylaw. It’s the owners that’s doing the crime by not educating their dog or by not training their dog,” said Lynne Mulder after she and fellow councillors passed all three readings of the bylaw along with a new set of penalties and some new designations for dangerous dogs. The whole package was designed to seriously yank the chains of owners who flaunt the rules.

Owner of a large dog, Mulder said most of the people who have contacted her concerning the bylaw will be pleased with the changes.

Chief among them, the new bylaw describes five levels of aggressive behaviour and then sets restrictions and prescribes the actions to be taken when dogs show those behaviours.

Among the restrictions, aggressive dogs are not allowed in off-leash parks.

Although barking was also included as a lower level form off aggression in the original draft, it was removed from the final version of the bylaw.

The new bylaw also prohibits people from carrying loose dogs in the boxes of pickup trucks. The dog must be on a leash short enough to keep it inside the box or it can be kept loose inside a kennel or inside a canopy, said Mulder.

Veterinarians in particular have been calling for this rule because of the number of dogs injured when they fall out or are ejected from the back of a pickup truck, she said.

“They’ve gone in, they’ve had major surgery on their hips and legs, and when (the owners) go to pick up the dog, what do they do? They throw it in the back of the truck.”

A new schedule of penalties passed along with the bylaw includes a $250 fine for the first offence of failing to license a dog, up from the $60 fine previously charged.

Jennifer Smith, bylaw research co-ordinator for the city, said the compliance rate in Calgary has reached 90 per cent since its fine was raised, compared with 56 per cent in Red Deer.

There will be a period of grace allowing dog owners time to learn the new rules and make the appropriate adjustments, said Inspections and Licensing manager Paul Meyette.

Animal control and bylaw officers have the discretion to give warnings if they don’t feel charges are warranted, said Meyette. The animal control contractors keep good records of all cases and will lay charges if their warnings go unheeded, he said.

Mulder said she is proud of the work that has been done to create a new dog control bylaw for Red Deer.

“I like this bylaw because there has been very broad input into it,” she said in her remarks to council.

“I think the (new) bylaw, as it stands, does have teeth, but allows warning and education.” she said.

In particular, the areas dealing with aggressive behaviour do not single out any particular breed of dog.

Prohibiting pit bulls, for example, does not stop people from teaching their dogs to bite, said Mulder. They simply get a different type of dog, she said.

Information about the new bylaws and fee schedules will be sent to all people who currently have dogs licensed with the city and updates will be included when those licenses come up for renewal at the end of the year, said Meyette.

Signs at the entry to the off leash area at Three Mile Bend will also be updated to inform owners of the changes, said Mulder.

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