These downtown signs may be a thing of the past if Nelson council approves changes to its animal control bylaw tonight.

These downtown signs may be a thing of the past if Nelson council approves changes to its animal control bylaw tonight.

Nelson council to revisit dog bylaw tonight

Nelson city staff are recommending a controversial bylaw be amended to allow leashed dogs downtown.

Nelson city staff are recommending a controversial bylaw be amended to allow leashed dogs downtown.

“There has been a strong desire to lift the dog restricted zone from the city’s animal control bylaw for some time … staff considers this bylaw overdue for a complete rewrite,” reads the report, which council will consider tonight.

Until the rewrite is completed, staff are proposing bylaw amendments to provide “a short term solution” by removing the dog restricted zone downtown and adding the bylaw to the city’s adjudication process, giving people a chance to dispute tickets.

The report also suggests bylaw enforcement officers will go easy this summer and report to council on the outcome of the bylaw amendment in the fall. Additional doggy bag dispensers would be provided downtown.

The leash-required area would be most of Baker Street, all of Vernon Street, Herridge Lane, a portion of Victoria Street, and their respective cross streets.

The bylaw would continue to require an annual license fee, ranging from $25 for a neutered male dog to $300 for a pit bull, with a discount for owners over 65. Bylaw officers would still issue tickets for unlicensed dogs and failing to pick up after a dog.

All those offences come with a $100 fine (reduced to $75 if paid within 14 days). Having a dog off-leash in a leash area comes with a $150 fine, increasing to $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense.

The city’s animal control bylaw was adopted in 1989 and has been amended ten times. The most contentious aspect — the downtown dog ban — was added in 1995.

Recently, a Nelson lawyer who has been ticketed three times for having his dog downtown said he would challenge the bylaw as unconstitutional.

City council last considered relaxing its rules on dogs downtown two years ago in the wake of a scathing article in the National Post, but decided to stick with the status quo. During last fall’s election campaign, many or most council candidates said they favoured taking another look at the bylaw.