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City to update animal control bylaw

All bylaws need to be reviewed from time to time and such is the case with the city’s animal control bylaw.

The current Animal Control Bylaw has been in place since 2005. It replaced a bylaw that was 14 years old at that time.

On Monday council approved staff taking a look at the bylaw with an eye to making sure its doing the intended job and that it is up to date.

Since the current bylaw was passed, animal control officers have averaged 2,143 complaints to investigate each year, according to a report send to council Monday. The heaviest complaint load was in 2005, which saw 3,081 complaints and the lowest was 2016, which saw 1,522 complaints. The trend of lower complaints is very evident in the complaints of dogs at large, it says. In 2005 there were more than 1,300 complaints in that area; however, there has been a steady decrease in these complaints, and in 2016 that number dropped to 570.

The complaints of dog bites continue to be a concern in the community, according to the report. Since 2005 the city has averaged 64 reported dog bites. In 2016 there were 75 reported and that is second in number only to 2009 when there were 95 reported.

While the pressure has been put on municipalities to ban certain breeds of dogs, city data suggests ‘breed specific legislation’ doesn’t work.

Since 2005 the current City of Prince George Animal Control Bylaw has defined a pit bull terrier, an American pit bull terrier, a pit bull, a Staffordshire bull terrier, an American Staffordshire terrier or a crossbreed of any of those breeds as a “restricted dog.” That designation imposes much higher licence and impoundment fees, fines for a dog being at large and imposes very specific and restrictive methods on how those dogs are kept in our community. The difference in license fee is as much as $247 per year and a difference of $229 for a first time impoundment.

“Our records fail to show any evidence to support Prince George is safer for people or companion animals because of the breed restriction,” says the report given to council. “In the five-year period prior to the passing of the current bylaw, 14 of every 100 dog bites reported involved either pit bull or pit bull crosses. In the 10-year period after the current bylaw was implemented, 23 of every 100 dog bites reported involved either pit bull or pit bull crosses.”

Cats are included in the definition of an animal in the current bylaw; however there are no provisions to encourage responsible ownership, according to the report.

“Creating a bylaw to encourage spaying or neutering and having permanent forms of identification on cats would allow for a more effective way of dealing with nuisance cats and the overpopulation,” according to the report. “This has created an increasing drain on resources not only of the City, but for organizations like the BC SPCA who have accessed grants of $110,000.00 in the last three years to spay and neuter free roaming cats in Prince George.”

Council approved updating the bylaw.

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