With approval of the proposed Animal Control Bylaw still pending, staff from the City of Airdrie’s Municipal Enforcement department asked council July 6 to approve amendments to the existing Dog Control Bylaw to include provisions for vicious dogs.
The proposed Animal Control Bylaw has come to council twice since it was drafted, on Jan. 19 and again May 19. Each time council sent it back to staff to gather more information or public feedback.
Lynn Mackenzie, team leader of Municipal Enforcement (ME), told council staff was seeking changes to the Dog Control Bylaw to give ME officers more tools to deal with serious dog bites on people and other animals.
“These proposed amendments will not impact the process for the proposed Animal Control Bylaw,” she said. “Furthermore, these amendments will appear in the Animal Control Bylaw.
“The City’s current Dog Control Bylaw does not provide officers with the appropriate enforcement tools for a dog bite on a person, a dog bite or attack on another animal or a dog bite or attack on another animal or person causing a death.”
According to Mackenzie, in 2014 ME dealt with a total of 70 dog bites and from Jan. 1 to June 3 they responded to 25 calls involving dog bites. From 2008 to 2013, ME dealt with a total of 45 incidents involving dog bites.
Changes to the Dog Control Bylaw include definitions of terms like “threatening behaviour” and “severe injury”, as well as outlining the authority granted to officers when dealing with contraventions of the bylaw and providing information for owners of dogs that have been deemed to be vicious.
“It is important to note that peace officers do not determine if a dog is vicious,” Mackenzie said. “This determination is made by a Justice of the Peace under the Dangerous Dog Act. The peace officer’s role is to investigate and to compile information to give to the courts.”
Under the proposed amendments, threatening behaviour is defined as unprovoked “barking, growling, snapping at, lunging at, chasing, stalking, attacking or biting another domestic animal, wildlife, livestock, bicycle, automobile or other vehicle being operated,” or “barking, growling, snapping at, lunging at, chasing, stalking, attacking or biting a person unless the person is a trespasser on the owner’s property.”
“It’s alarming to see the increasing numbers of dog attacks,” Mayor Peter Brown said.
Brown asked for clarification about a situation involving a dog biting someone on private property.
“My dog defends the park – it’s her park. She’s a very friendly dog. But if someone who isn’t a friendly person reached over my fence and started to rattle the dog and the dog bit him, who’s responsible for that and how would that be handled?” he asked.
Officer Wayne Sum said officers would look into a variety of things, including whether charges should be laid against the person putting their hand over the fence for tormenting a dog.
“Unfortunately, a dog bite on a human person still results in a charge for the dog owner,” he said.
A public input session was held during the July 6 City Council meeting, however, no one stepped forward to speak for or against the amendments.
Amendments to the Dog Control Bylaw were passed unanimously.