Bylaw changes could leash dogs
City drops push to license cats, seeks to require dog owners to carry waste bags
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Tuesday, Sep 25, 2012 07:15 pm
Draft Animal Bylaw Changes
The draft bylaw that will return to council in March 2013 will contain the following changes:
• All dogs must be on-leash except in off-leash parks or farmland areas.
• A dog can be deemed dangerous by a bylaw officers and have restrictions placed on it.
• Dog owners, when walking dogs, must carry something with which to clean up any of their dog's feces.
• No one in St. Albert will be allowed to have pot-bellied pigs, goats, chickens or pigeons.
• Any dog owner who does not renew a dog licence when due can be charged a late payment fee.
Leashes could become mandatory in St. Albert under a draft bylaw that would completely reverse where dogs have to be on-leash in the city.
Council voted in favour of a proposed change to the animal control bylaw which, if passed next year, would turn the city into an on-leash community with exceptions applying to off-leash areas. Currently, dogs don't have to be on a leash except in specific areas.
“If a dog is on a leash, the owner has it under control,” said Coun. Malcolm Parker. “I find it hard to believe that we let dogs run free in any area.”
The proposed change was one of several included in a draft bylaw that city administration brought to council on Monday. Council voted in May to review the bylaw.
The review process identified St. Albert as the only known community that doesn't require dogs to be on a leash, except where specified, said the city's manager of policing services Aaron Giesbrecht.
Administration proposed reversing the bylaw, requiring instead that dogs be leashed in all areas. Parker put forward a motion to require all dogs to be leashed except in off-leash parks and large farm fields. It passed by a vote 5-2, with Coun. Cathy Heron and Mayor Nolan Crouse voting against.
Heron was visibly annoyed with the outcome, vowing to defeat it when the draft bylaw comes before council next year for approval.
“We only have one off-leash area,” Heron said. “I'm not done with this fight. I will continue to advocate for an off-leash compromise.”
Parker, however, feels leashing dogs will reduce the number of incidents involving dogs biting people or other dogs.
Another contentious motion that was approved for inclusion in the draft bylaw is the requirement that all dog walkers be in possession of something they can use to pick up their dog's waste, should any occur.
Giesbrecht said ensuring dog owners pick up after their pets was one of the main arguments he heard from the public during the review.
The motion barely passed, with a vote of 4-3. Heron, Coun. Cam MacKay and Coun. Wes Brodhead voted against it.
“I found it kind of short-sighted. The bag thing is not enforceable and we need to enforce the bylaws we have before we enforce more,” Heron said.
She pointed out to council that, if a bylaw officer stopped her after she had used the waste bag she carries while walking her dog, she would be in contravention of the bylaw.
“I think it's silly,” she said.
Council also debated but ultimately defeated a motion that would license cats. When council first called for the bylaw to be reviewed, it also said to include the idea of licensing cats, such as requiring them to be on leashes or allowing the capture of roaming cats on private property.
But Giesbrecht estimated any such move would cost up to $200,000 in the first year, with ongoing expenses of up to $130,000 annually. With an estimate of seizing 300 cats per year, and with only 50 per cent of surveyed residents in favour of licensing cats if it means an increase in taxes, Giesbrecht recommended against it.
Brodhead put forward a motion to license cats, explaining he only did so for council to debate it. The motion was unanimously defeated.
“If it didn't cost us any money, it wouldn't be a problem,” said Crouse.
Giesbrecht also pointed out the bylaw as drafted will also allow officers to deem a dog dangerous by its behaviour and impose restrictions on it, such as wearing a muzzle when being walked. The previous bylaw referenced “vicious dogs,” but did not include a definition.
Giesbrecht also said the bylaw will finally make it illegal for one dog to bite a person or attack a person or another dog, something that was also not in the previous bylaw.
The bylaw will now be drafted by administration and return to council for further debate in March of next year.
Normally, amended bylaws are simply changed where needed and put to council for a vote. But the bylaw was so outdated and so redundant and confusing that it had to be re-written, Giesbrecht said.
“Fixing the legal errors in the bylaw would require a total re-write of the bylaw.”