They came, they sniffed, they rolled over – or so it seemed Monday when council considered a new on-leash bylaw for dogs and decided to refer the entire doggie bag to city manager Patrick Draper for more study.
After previously voting in favour of a proposed change to the animal control bylaw, Mayor Nolan Crouse provided notice on Oct. 1 that he intended to have council reconsider the motion.
If passed next year, the bylaw would require dog owners to keep their pet on a leash at all times, with exceptions applying to some off-leash areas such as dog parks and uninhabited open areas.
Currently, dogs don’t have to be on a leash with the exception of some parts of the city.
Crouse said when the motion was first approved he did not consider its consequences. Nor did he fully understand the new bylaw and the changes that would follow it.
“What started as a cat question turned into a report I was not really prepared for,” he said, referring to council’s first review of the bylaw, which included the idea of licensing cats.
Crouse added he was confused about the definition of dog parks and uninhabited open areas. He said council needed greater clarity as to what the motion was addressing, and how it would affect pet owners. In past weeks, council received a number of reactions from the public, many in disapproval of the bylaw.
“I am terribly confused with what we approved,” he said.
“If all we do is approve this bylaw we will leave ourselves with a brand new set of issues.”
He motioned that city manager Patrick Draper should provide further recommendations to council to clarify what prerequisites were necessary to make the bylaw successful.
Draper said he followed the public response to the bylaw closely and found that a number of people appeared confused to its exact wording and to what council’s intent was in moving the motion forward.
Coun. MacKay agreed with Crouse that there was ambiguity over whether the city owned a designated off-leash park. He said council needed to consider whether such a place existed before amending that people should take their dogs there.
“We do need a place for dog owners to let their dog run free,” he said.
He added that the bylaw also needed to clarify the definition of pets in general. Some animals, such as pigs and pigeons, were gaining popularity as domesticated pets among residents and could not be considered farm animals anymore, he said.
Coun. Malcolm Parker, who brought forward the motion that all dogs be leashed except in off-leash parks and open fields, reminded council again that unleashed dogs leave some people intimidated and with a feeling of being at risk.
He disagreed with leaving the matter to administration. He said it had worked hard on crafting the original bylaw and he felt clear about its meaning and implications.
“We’ve been on this for a year. How much more time are we going to take,” he said.
“There are other things in this city I want to get on with as well.”
Coun. Roger Lemieux said it was the role of council to represent the citizens and their concerns. He added that everyone loved animals but pet owners needed to be in control of their dogs. The freedom of the animal was appropriate as long as it fit the environment.
A city full of cars, little children and kids on bicycles and skateboards was not an appropriate place for domestic animals on the loose, he said.
Coun. Cathy Heron said that 90 per cent of all dog owners were responsible and St. Albert was known to be a dog-friendly place to live in. She added that the bylaw lacked clarity on what defined a leashed dog; she did not know if dogs were allowed off their leash if they sat in a bike basket. Nor did she know if dogs were considered on-leash if they carried it in their mouth.
“Laws need to reflect a reasonable compromise between all citizens … We need to take this slowly and we need to make this right,” she said.
At the end of the discussion, council agreed unanimously that Draper would provide supplementary recommendations to bring clarity to the current ambiguity on the previously approved motion.
Council will hear the report in November.