Published December 24, 2009
Bylaw to stop dogs from chasing squirrels, seagulls
Jenny Wagler/Staff Writer
Sechelt dogs that “without provocation” chase any animal — be it a rat, squirrel, seagull, bear or cougar — would violate a dog licensing and control amendment bylaw that passed three readings at the Dec. 16 council meeting.
The first draft of the bylaw, prepared by District of Sechelt staff, would only have stopped dogs from chasing, biting or attacking domesticated animals. But at committee of the whole Dec. 9, Coun. Keith Thirkell suggested expanding the bylaw to include wild animals and birds as well. Thirkell argued that this would bring it in line with provincial and federal legislation that protects various wild animals, including migratory birds and endangered species.
Councillors Fred Taylor and Alice Janisch voted against the bylaw.
“People have given me examples where their dog has run after seagulls and that would be a crime [if we pass this bylaw],” Taylor said. “One individual has talked to me about their dog chasing a rat in their yard. That would be a crime. People have talked again about bears in the park and how their dog ran after the bear to defend them and save them from being attacked. That would be a crime. I just think we’re unnecessarily criminalizing behaviour in our community.”
Coun. Ann Kershaw said the clause “without provocation” was key, and that she hoped common sense would guide how the bylaw gets enforced.
“I’ve thought it over and I think that if a coyote was in my yard, then I think that’s provocation in itself,” she said. “It depends on your interpretation of provocation. And a bird fluttering away in front of a dog, that’s provocation.”
Thirkell asked staff to clarify if the bylaw would be enforced differently for incidents that occurred on people’s private property.
“If you look at it from practical terms, it’s highly unlikely our bylaw enforcement officer would be as concerned with something occurring on somebody’s private property, because there’s a good chance nobody would be complaining about it,” District director of corporate services Jo-Anne Frank said. “But if somebody saw a dog chasing a bird and had an issue with it, and it says in our bylaw that that’s an offence, then theoretically our bylaw enforcement officers would be reacting to that complaint and enforcing the provisions of the bylaw.”
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