Dog owners chew on bylaw

Some dog owners are raising concerns about how bad their pet’s behaviour must be before it’s declared dangerous under the City of Red Deer’s proposed dog bylaw.

Dog

Dog

Some dog owners are raising concerns about how bad their pet’s behaviour must be before it’s declared dangerous under the City of Red Deer’s proposed dog bylaw.

More than 15 individuals dropped by Tuesday’s open house at Bower Ponds so they could comment on the bylaw, which for the first time will address aggressive dogs.

Ashley Smith of Red Deer said she wonders about those “simple instances” that can occur between dogs.

“Two dogs will fight,” she said.

Under the proposed bylaw, which could be approved by council on June 29, an owner of a dog or aggressive dog is guilty of an offence when that dog displays threatening behaviour on or off its property.

This behaviour is defined as creating “reasonable apprehension of a threat, including growling, lunging, snarling or chasing in a menacing fashion.”

Donna Dee, a dog trainer who has a standard poodle and a border collie of her own, fears some people may seek charges when it’s not warranted.

“If it shows any aggressive move towards somebody, you can be charged,” Dee said. “If someone is coming past a property (where a dog lives), it’s pretty normal for a dog to bark and maybe snarl and maybe look threatening.”

Dee does support increased penalties.

“It’s a privilege to own a dog, so if you don’t have a licence you should be fined.”

Duane Thomas, director of enforcement services for Alberta Animal Services, said he’s wanted an aggressive dog section for a long time.

Right now, to label any dog dangerous must be heard by a judge, he said.

“I think we’ve only had one case in the last 10 years where we’ve actually had a declaration under the provincial Dangerous Dogs Act,” Thomas said. “The act is old too. Penalties for not abiding is $5 a day. It’s not really enforceable.”

The city’s Inspections and Licensing manager will decide whether a dog is aggressive based on written statements of an animal control officer.

Bylaw research co-ordinator Jennifer Smith said visitors support the city’s plans to revise the existing 22-year-old bylaw so it’s more in line with other municipalities.

Smith said people are generally pleased the city is cracking down on aggressive dogs.

A key concern is what will constitute an aggressive dog, she said.

“It’s important for people to know that if your dog barks at someone, that’s not necessarily an aggressive dog,” Smith said.

But if the dog attacks another dog or a person, this bylaw would give the city measures to declare the animal aggressive, she added.

Public comments will be received until Friday on the proposed bylaw, which is on hand at www.reddeer.ca/inspections. Feedback can be given online, via email at inspections@reddeer.ca or by phone at 403-342-8190.

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