District of Sicamous council gave first reading to a new animal control bylaw at its Oct. 13 meeting.
Jennifer Bruns, corporate officer for the district, said the purpose of the new bylaw is to promote responsible animal ownership, dissuade nuisance activities caused by animals, and give bylaw enforcement better tools to protect community safety.
She explained a cat darting across the back of someone’s property may not be considered a nuisance, while a rabbit eating a neighbour’s lettuce could be.
Bylaw enforcement officers will have discretion in determining what is a nuisance activity, which the bylaw describes as an animal’s activity that unreasonably interferes with the rest, peace, enjoyment, or comfort of another individual.
Bruns noted the district’s philosophy is always to seek voluntary bylaw compliance through education. However, if a bylaw officer cannot come to a suitable solution with someone in breach of the new bylaw, municipal fines can be given.
District staff only recommended first reading of the bylaw, as public consultation is still required.
A notable change to the new bylaw is that a person must not keep, permit, or allow more than three dogs on any premise they own or occupy.
The district’s current animal control bylaw — Dog Control Bylaw No. 228, 1997 — does not place a limit on the number of dogs a person may have on a property.
The new bylaw does list exceptions to the dog limit for the following: retail pet sales businesses, licensed veterinary clinics, licensed animal groomers, licensed kennels, and licensed animal breeding businesses.
The limit applies to dogs six months or older, so puppies would not count towards a person’s dog limit.
The bylaw states each day a violation of the bylaw continues to exist will be deemed a separate offence against the bylaw. The fine for harboring more than three dogs would be $250.
Bruns said a licensing or registration program is not being implemented, so there’s no requirement for an owner to register the number of dogs in their household. Further, the new bylaw as a whole would only be enforced on a complaint basis, meaning a concerned citizen would have to report a household they think has too many dogs.
“If an owner had more than three dogs currently, they would be permitted to keep those dogs until their passing,” wrote Bruns in an Oct. 14 email. “We are planning on conducting public consultation that will specifically seek to understand the community’s desire for limiting the number of dogs per household.”
Coun. Malcolm Makayev said he likes the new bylaw in general, but doesn’t like the idea of limiting the amount of animals someone can have.
“It depends on the owner, not the amount of animals, in my opinion,” said Makayev.
He and Coun. Jeff Mallmes agreed public consultation would be important for this bylaw. They supported passing the bylaw’s first reading so public consultation could move forward.
Another change in the new bylaw is a punishment for any person who leaves an animal unattended in a motor vehicle with its windows closed, for any period of time between April 30 and Oct. 1. Anyone caught doing this may be issued a $250 fine.
The new bylaw also addresses concerns around dangerous dogs.
“The previous bylaw had a clause that prohibited vicious dogs; however, the definition of a vicious dog was difficult to enforce,” said Bruns, adding the proposed new bylaw would allow the bylaw enforcement to impose conditions appropriate for each situation, to protect the safety of the community.
Bruns added Sicamous’ community charter provides authority for an animal control officer to seize dogs that have seriously injured or killed a person or another animal, and the district can rely on that authority if its warranted.
A draft of the District of Sicamous Animal Control Bylaw No. 1013, 2021 is available on the district’s website. Bruns said the next step in the bylaw’s journey to being adopted, changed, or not adopted, is conducting public consultation regarding the key changes and increased scope of the bylaw, before bringing it back to council for second reading.