Council to reconsider proposed leash change
Mayor wants new vote on animal bylaw changes
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 06, 2012 06:00 am
St. Albert dogs may not have to go on-leash after all, as city council will revisit a recent decision to pursue changes to St. Albert’s animal control rules.
Mayor Nolan Crouse submitted a notice of motion to council Monday that asks it to reconsider its Sept. 24 decision to have city administration draft a new animal control bylaw by the end of March, 2013.
Included in that decision was the directive to bring in rules that would require dogs to be leashed except in designated off-leash areas, which is the opposite of the current bylaw.
“I wanted to question whether they really wanted to bring it forward simply because of the amount of work,” Crouse said. “It’s a full, brand new bylaw and that’s the essence of it.”
The review of the existing bylaw was so extensive that administration will simply write a new version instead of amending the original. Crouse believes doing so will generate extensive public input in the form of multiple council sittings to hear from all who wish to speak.
“This could be two or three or four sittings for council,” Crouse said. “You really need to think through what you’ve asked staff to do.”
Almost every member of council wants to revisit the Sept. 24 decision, which has generated public criticism, particularly over the issue of leashing dogs. St. Albert is one of the only known municipalities that doesn’t require dogs to be on a leash at all times. Currently dogs must be leashed in specified areas.
The motion approved by council was put forward by Coun. Malcolm Parker and differed from what administration had put forward for consideration. Administration had called for dogs to be on a leash everywhere except “when under control in a park.” Parker changed the wording to specify that leashes would apply everywhere except in dog parks and open spaces, such as a farmer’s field.
While some councillors wondered if he did so mistakenly, Parker confirmed that was his intention.
“You have the same potential issue for dog bites and, I think, full control,” Parker said.
But Couns. Wes Brodhead and Cathy Heron want to revisit the matter because of the wording. Both said that a farmer’s field is private property. And the one dog park St. Albert has in Lacombe Lake Park isn’t official as it is not described in the land use bylaw.
“I don’t think people were aware of what they were voting on,” Heron said of the change.
“The end result is there is no place in the community to let your dog off the leash,” Brodhead said.
Coun. Roger Lemieux said leashes are a hot-button topic with the public, but said he wants to steer clear of it given how many potential dog owners there are in the city (there are about 8,000 registered dogs.)
Lemieux said his dog has been attacked by other dogs, and based on this personal experience, his preference is to require dogs to be leashed everywhere except a dog park.
“This is a tough one,” he said. “I’m going to avoid this like the plague.”
Coun. Cam MacKay thinks the bylaw as a whole is futile because it can’t realistically be enforced.
“It’s one of those issues you can’t resolve in a bylaw to begin with,” said MacKay. “You can’t legislate good behaviour.”
Coun. Len Bracko did not return messages by press time.
Other changes council voted to pursue include a requirement for dog owners to carry a bag or some way of cleaning up after their dog. The city was also looking to impose a late payment fee for dog licences and prohibit owning animals such as pigs, sheep, goats, pigeons and chickens.
Crouse’s motion, which likely won’t return to council until Oct. 15, will likely require some wordsmithing itself. Under council’s procedure bylaw, a motion to reconsider a previous vote has to be made at the same meeting as the original vote.
Asking council to reconsider a vote after the meeting requires a motion to amend or rescind. That motion must be approved first before the original motion can be put to a new vote.