New rules being considered for dogs deemed aggressive in the City of Duncan would allow owners to apply to have the designation removed for the first time.
Paige MacWilliam, the city’s director of corporate services, said that in the interest of administrative fairness, staff have proposed including a new process in the city’s animal control and care bylaw in which someone who has had their dog declared aggressive may apply for relief from that designation after a two-year period, if no further incidents have occurred.
“In some cases, dogs receive an aggressive designation because they nip someone when they are young so, after two years it’s a mature animal and if there are no other incidents, and other criteria including acquiring certification from the Canadian Kennel Club’s Canine Good Neighbour program, are followed, that designation could be removed after two years if the new bylaw is adopted,” MacWilliam said.
The proposed change follows on the heels of the decision by the Municipality of North Cowichan in April to adopt the same policy towards the rehabilitation of aggressive dogs.
Both jurisdictions are trying to base their updated animal regulation bylaws on the model animal care bylaw published by the SPCA in an effort to make animal control rules homogeneous across much of the region.
The proposed changes to Duncan’s animal control and care bylaw, which was last updated in 2015, are expected to be tabled at a future council meeting.
The proposed new bylaw also includes provisions around animal cruelty, animals left in cars, feeding homeless cats and even calls for removing licensing requirements for keeping hens in backyards while keeping standards of care in place.
Duncan’s current animal control bylaw includes separate provisions for dogs considered aggressive and those which are labeled with a dangerous designation, which is a degree higher in seriousness, and those are proposed to remain in the new bylaw.
Dogs that are deemed dangerous would not be able to apply for relief from the designation.
The bylaw doesn’t contain breed-specific rules for breeds like pit bulls and pit-bull crosses and Williams said staff are not recommending they be added.
Coastal Animal Control, which is charge of animal control in Duncan and North Cowichan, has recommended keeping the two designations in place so that the CAC can use the aggressive dog designation to put less stringent restrictions on a dog that was acting “aggressive” but hadn’t reached the level of being deemed a dangerous dog.
“This gives the dog owner an opportunity to take proactive steps toward managing their dog’s behaviour to prevent an escalation in aggression,” MacWilliam said.
Provisions for dogs deemed aggressive require that the dog be leashed when in public, be confined in an enclosure or indoors when not on a leash and not permitted on school grounds or near playgrounds.
Provisions on dogs deemed dangerous include that the dog be leashed and muzzled while in public, be confined in an enclosure or indoors when not on a leash and not permitted in any school ground, playground, off-leash area or busy city park.
Staff are also recommending the implementation of lower city fees for dogs deemed aggressive or dangerous if their owners have entered into a compliance agreement whereby they agree to follow the conditions and restrictions in respect of the training, socialization, handling and maintenance of the dog imposed by animal control officers.
Williams said staff are also recommending that all dog licensing fees be reviewed as the city hasn’t made any changes to them in many years.