Pitt Meadows council is moving ahead with a dog control bylaw that has more bite – including a licensing fee of $300 per year if a dog is deemed vicious.
The new bylaw offers a two-tier system, in which problem dogs can be deemed either aggressive or vicious.
Dogs will be labelled aggressive if they have inflicted a minor injury to a person or domestic animal, or if they aggressively pursue or harass a person or another animal
A Tier 1 designation allows bylaws staff to address the aggressive dog behaviour and gives the dog owner an opportunity to rehabilitate their dog to no longer be a threat to the community, says a staff report.
If a dog is deemed aggressive, the owner will have 30 days to hire a certified dog trainer to provide behaviour remediation. The dog owners would be able to apply to have the “aggressive” designation removed after retraining, with no further problems, after a period of six months.
It was a proactive aspect of the bylaw, said Coun. Janis Elkerton, saying remediating the dog is a good first step.
“There’s an incentive to work with the dog and the handler,” Elkerton added.
Aggressive dogs face restrictions, such as being securely confined, no retractable leash, and they are restricted from off-leash areas.
The second tier is for dogs that have caused a serious injury or killed a person or domestic animal. In the worst cases, the city could make an application to the court for a destruction order and have the dog put down.
Vicious dog owners face more requirements, including behaviour training, a vicious dog sign, keeping it muzzled in public, and leash length not longer than one metre.
The bylaw’s schedule of fees has licencing costs of $20 per year for most spayed and neutered pets, but it will be $150 for aggressive dogs and $300 for vicious dogs.
Elkerton is pleased with the new bylaw. Now there will be consequences for people who own problem dogs in the city, she said, and dog owners will make decisions whether they want to keep a vicious dog in light of higher licensing fees and restrictions.
The bylaw was a response to dog attacks that resulted in the death of several small dogs in Pitt Meadows. John and Yvonne McDonald, whose Shih Tsu cross Buttons was killed by a bull mastiff, in September 2015, lobbied the city for tougher action against vicious dogs.
Elkerton said the city deliberately avoided mention of dog breeds in its bylaw, because breed-specific bylaws are not supported by the SPCA.
As with all bylaws, enforcement is driven by complaints.
“We’re trying to put in bylaws that actually work, and are workable,” she said.
With the new bylaw, impound fees are also more expensive for aggressive and vicious dogs. The regular fee is $50 for the first impoundment, $75 for the second and $150 for each subsequent one.
For aggressive dogs, the rates increase to $100, $200 and $300, and for vicious dogs they start at $200, rising to $300, then $400.
The bylaw sets out fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 for contraventions.
Staff looked at five neighbouring municipalities with two-tier systems – Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Langley city and township – and compared fees licencing fees for dogs deemed dangerous ranged from $38 to $505 per year.
The Pitt Meadows bylaw has received first and second reading.