I am not entirely opposed to a dog bylaw being adopted for Area H, but I absolutely cannot accept the proposal in the recent mailout. With all due respect, this sample bylaw sounds like it was written decades ago. We are now living in a more compassionate era and the way we treat animals should reflect that.
A bylaw dealing with dangerous dogs, if properly defined, is surely one that most of us would not oppose. People should be compensated if they, their dogs, cats or livestock are killed or injured by a dog and fines would be appropriate as well. At the same time, landowners themselves need to be responsible for protecting livestock from cougars, coyotes, bears and various other predators including dogs. The installation of electric fences would be a good place to start.
My strongest objection to this bylaw is that in Part III – 3 and Part IV – 2 and 6 it states that after seven days the animal control officer can destroy the dog. Collaboration with the SPCA or Homes 4 Animals would ensure that animals are re-homed if at all possible. No animal should even be considered for euthanasia unless it is incurably ill or vicious. I can picture dozens of scenarios in which the unwarranted killing of a beloved companion animal under this bylaw could result from extenuating circumstances and cause serious mental trauma.
Many of us in the Kootenays take pride in our efforts to live compassionate lives. This bylaw not only regards dogs as mere possessions but it considers them inferior to inanimate objects. To illustrate my point, when I had tenants stiff me for two months’ rent and then disappear, I legally had to store, at my expense, all the worthless stuff they left on the premises for several months before being allowed to dispose of it… and our best friends have seven days?
Part II – 2: “Every owner of a dog shall keep the dog on a leash while it is not on the owner’s property.” This is absolutely unreasonable and unfair to responsible dog owners that regularly take well behaved animals for walks, especially for those not living on acreages, without the development of a number of large designated off leash areas. These areas are vital because socialization plays a huge role in the development of a well balanced dog and living in a remote area already makes this challenging. Some regulations on disposing of dog poop would certainly make many trail users happy.
Dogs running loose without supervision can be a different situation altogether. I certainly have felt frightened on occasion and several acquaintances have been bitten while biking or hiking on the rails to trails by dogs most likely protecting their properties. There is also the danger of dogs packing up and running down wildlife. On the other hand, there are a lot of very friendly dogs in my neighbourhood and I think developing regulations on order of conduct would be more readily accepted than the draconian on leash rule. I also think people need to be made aware that if a car ends up in the river as a result of swerving to avoid hitting their dog, they are liable for damages.
I would suggest changing the term guide dogs to accredited service dogs and adding that dogs who have earned their canine good neighbour certificates be allowed off leash anytime when in the company of a person.
I am really disappointed that this bylaw does not address any important animal protection issues. I would support a set of bylaws that include regulations on cruelty and safety issues such as: No animal should be fettered for more than two hours per day. Regular contact/socialization with humans or other domestic animals, access to water and proper shelter need to be provided. (I’m afraid if this bylaw passes as is, we will see more dogs tied up. It’s much cheaper than the more humane fencing option.)
Instead of a simple yes or no ballot we absolutely need more input from the community and I urge people not to accept this draft but to submit their opinions and suggestions along with the ballot. I suggest the RDCK rewrite the bylaw in collaboration with the community, including some of our local progressive dog experts and trainers, to come up with a fair and comprehensive plan.