A smarter bylaw

It was good to hear city councillors agree this week to take a second look at Castlegar’s decade-old dog licensing bylaw.

It was good to hear city councillors agree this week to take a second look at Castlegar’s decade-old dog licensing bylaw.

The topic has generated a lot of debate after a recent Castlegar News article brought attention to the $1,000 annual fee the bylaw imposes on owners of pit bulls and Staffordshire terriers.

As it turns out, though, only one person has ever actually paid the licensing fee in the 10 years the bylaw has been on the books, and that person said she only paid up after her dog was picked up by an enforcement officer and she was forced to pay it. The next year? No licence renewal.

So, in essence, we have a bylaw with zero voluntary compliance and extremely minimal enforcement. Clearly, as Coun. Deb McIntosh put it: “The bylaw is ineffective.”

For that reason alone, city council ought to review the regulation, not to mention the fact that it’s discouraging prospective residents from moving to Castlegar.

And, just to illustrate the point that it’s not only large-breed dogs with bad reputations that can pose a serious risk to the public, on the same day that councillors made their decision in Castlegar, a Shih-Tzu in Ottawa was making national headlines after it attacked a Home Depot employee and permanently disfigured the woman’s nose with it’s tiny but powerful teeth.

The fact of the matter is: a poorly trained dog is a dangerous dog, regardless of breed.

That’s not to say that pit bulls — and other large-breed dogs such as rottweilers and huskies — should be treated exactly the same as smaller canines. Due to their size and, in some cases, their breeding, they clearly can do far more damage if they do attack.

But the current bylaw unfairly and arbitrarily singles out the owners of two particular types of large-breed dog. Hopefully council will come up with a smarter alternative which more effectively balances the rights of dog owners with the responsibility to keep the public safe.

— Castlegar News