New dog bylaw would target ‘aggressive’ canines

City of Red Deer aims to bite down on aggressive dogs. Administration has proposed to revamp a 22-year-old dog bylaw so that it includes stricter measures, including high licence fees and fines, for owners of threatening dogs of any breed.

City of Red Deer aims to bite down on aggressive dogs.

Administration has proposed to revamp a 22-year-old dog bylaw so that it includes stricter measures, including high licence fees and fines, for owners of threatening dogs of any breed.

City council introduced the dog bylaw on Tuesday so the public has time to review it before it’s considered for approval on June 29.

Bylaw research co-ordinator Jennifer Smith said the current bylaw was good at requiring dog owners to license their pets.

Several high-profile dog attacks in 2002 prompted the need for a new bylaw with greater focus on public safety and animal welfare. A great deal of research has been done since then to see what other cities have done and to investigate legal issues, Smith said.

“What we found through our extensive research is that breed bans are not effective, they are not enforceable,” she said. “What we wanted was a bylaw that would cover all dogs.”

Modeled after Calgary’s Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw, Red Deer’s proposed bylaw acknowledges all dogs can terrorize a community by chasing, biting, attacking or killing other animals or people.

“There are so many things about this bylaw I love,” said Councillor Lynne Mulder. “We didn’t take a stance on the dog’s breed but their behaviour.”

A dog that has shown aggressive tendencies — threatening behaviour including attacking other animals or people — can receive the designation. Threatening behaviour is defined as having a reasonable apprehension of a threat, including growling, lunging or chasing in a menacing fashion.

“Once it’s attacked somebody, the (city’s) Inspections and Licensing manager would then evaluate testimony from the animal control officer as to whether that dog is aggressive,” said Smith.

Previously a lengthy court process was needed to designate a dog dangerous under the provincial Dangerous Dogs Act.

Aggressive dogs would be identified through a licence tag. They must be microchipped and tattooed. Proposed licence fees for unaltered aggressive dogs are $350, $250 for altered ones. Regular dog licences would be $53 for unaltered, $23 for altered. To get the licence, the owner must also obtain liability insurance no less than $500,000.

As well, obedience training is required within six months of being designated aggressive.

The dog bylaw would also outline how an aggressive dog must be controlled on or off the owner’s property. For instance, it must be muzzled and handled by someone aged 16 years or older when off the property.

Owners of these dogs would have the chance to appeal through an “unbiased committee” yet to be determined.

Failure to abide by the bylaw could fetch penalties in the thousands of dollars. If an aggressive dog causes severe injury to a person, the first offence would cost $5,000, second offence $7,500 and third offence $10,000.

Councillor Larry Pimm said he would like to see that section changed.

“After the first offence, that dog should be removed from the community,” said Pimm. “In my opinion, it should be killed.”

The bylaw would also give higher fines to those who don’t license unaggressive dogs — $250 for a first offence, $500 for a second and $750 for a third.

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