Andrea Rondeau column: Second chance for dogs in Duncan bylaw a good idea

I’m not usually timid around animals, big or small.

I love animals. I live with two cats and a dog. I’m the person you meet on the street who is likely to ask if I can pet your pooch, and am more likely to remember his or her name than yours (oops).

Growing up, my family had goats and chickens. The farmer next door had cattle and horses that would come to our fence for a pet or a carrot. My sisters and I were in 4-H. All of which is to say I’m not usually timid around animals, big or small.

But there are some dogs that make me wary, and of which I’ve even been afraid. I’ve never been seriously bitten, but I have had a couple of dogs snap at me in a threatening manner. Often you can tell as you approach them, but not always. Oftentimes they react in such a manner out of fear, or a territorial desire to protect a person or place (I’m always wary of dogs being walked with children, for example, as dogs will sometimes guard these little members of their pack). But in extreme cases it can be out of dominance or a predator instinct. One can’t discount the possibility, no matter the size of the dog.

But just because a dog may act out aggressively once, doesn’t mean it should be labelled for life. Which brings me to a positive development the City of Duncan is looking at for its animal control and care bylaw. Under the bylaw, it will be possible for aggressive dogs (though not those deemed dangerous) to have that designation removed for good behaviour, so to speak.

If a child acts out and hits or pushes or, yes, bites someone, we don’t tag them as dangerous for the rest of their lives, and put restrictions on their movements. No, we teach them that those are not acceptable responses to things. And (most of the time) they stop.

It only makes sense to do the same with dogs, who can also learn and change behaviours, especially if they are young. Two years without incident is a reasonable time frame to judge whether a dog has been rehabilitated or not.

It’s also important for all of us to reduce the risk of a bad human-animal interaction. Owners must be responsible, of course, but it’s also up to everyone to be sensible about approaching dogs and other animals. It’s only good etiquette to ask an owner if their dog is friendly before approaching. Make sure your children know that they have to be gentle when touching an animal, and not to run up to them suddenly, as it can scare them. Be aware of an animal’s body language — does it look happy to see you? Threatening? Neutral? Afraid?

Having good experiences with animals can shape your relationship with them for life, and I hope that everyone will wind up loving our furry friends as much as I do.

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