The Town of Rocky Mountain House has a new tougher dog and cat bylaw that focuses more on pet owners.
The Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw was passed by town council earlier this month, replacing the town’s former Cat and Dog bylaw. It is the result of well-attended and lengthy public consultations after several dog attacks.
In one case last year, three loose dogs attacked and injured an 86-year-old senior and her dog right after they first attacked a jogger and her dog on the same community trail. The dogs were pit bulls, which led to calls for breed specific legislation.
However, during the public consultations, council heard from owners of pit bulls and rottweilers that the issue was not about a specific dog breed. Rather, it was about responsible owners, Brad Dollevoet, the town’s director of Planning and Community Development, said Wednesday.
When the town looked at dog attacks, it often had to do with negligence of the animals, he said.
“That creates the environment for these dogs to get violent, to be aggressive. So in order to focus on prevention, we’re trying to focus on ownership, and creating healthy environments for dogs and cats to live in town.”
The new bylaw has a section that puts the onus on dog and cat owners to make sure their pets have adequate food and water, adequate care if they are ill or wounded, reasonable protection from extreme temperatures and proper opportunity for exercise.
As well, owners are required to adequately maintain a containment or structure that will prevent the dog or cat from leaving the owner’s property.
Fines have also been increased, in most instances by $50, and in a number of cases, including some related to aggressive dog attacks, there’s an automatic court appearance.
“It gives our office more tools in enforcing the bylaw,” said Dollevoet.
Regarding enforcement, council decided in its last budget to hire a third community peace officer, who would focus on animal control. They found the money by deciding to not renew an agreement it had with a private contractor for animal control.