Steep fines, vague rules prompt review of dog bylaw

Red Deer will review its dog bylaw, recently criticized by one local resident for its punishing fines and vague regulations.

Red Deer will review its dog bylaw, recently criticized by one local resident for its punishing fines and vague regulations.

Mark Yabar asked the city to review the bylaw after he unsuccessfully fought a $250 fine for having a dog running at large at the off-leash park at Three Mile Bend last June.

Yabar has always contended his dog was not at large and went to provincial court in October to fight the ticket, but lost.

Despite the verdict, he asked the city to review its bylaw “which does not meet the people of Red Deer’s expectations because of its ambiguous provisions and excessively punitive penalties.”

A report to council says the $250 penalty for a first-time offence and subsequent penalties of $500 and $750 for repeat offences are among the highest in the province.

Yabar had hoped council would refund his fine, but city staff said a provincial court decision could not be overturned by council.

The bylaw also doesn’t define what “control” means when people take their dogs for a walk. As well, regulations make no specific reference to off-leash parks. The department also says the signs at Three Mile Bend are not as clear as the ones set up at the Oxbows Off Leash Dog Park near Delburne Street and 40th Avenue.

Coun. Lynne Mulder agreed there seemed to be some gaps and sections that are not clear in the bylaw. Coun. Cindy Jefferies wondered how dog owners could know the rules when posted signs are not clear.

Council voted 7-1 to direct administration to clarify when a dog should be considered running at large or under the control of its owner and how that should apply in off-leash parks. Coun. Chris Stephan was opposed, saying he didn’t see the need for a costly full-scale review.

Staff will also review fines, the signs in off-leash areas, and the city’s administrative review process for when dog owners dispute a penalty.

A definition on what constitutes interfering with a bylaw officer and how the penalty rates might be related to rising legal costs.

A report will come back to council in four months.

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