By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Council gave unanimous first reading to its Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw Tuesday night after some clarifications and additions were made to the draft document.
Morinville’s Interim Manager of Enforcement Services, Donna Tona, apprised council of several changes and clarifications that were the result of discussions held during council’s committee of the whole meeting Jan. 18. Those changes include enhanced definitions of service animals and the term under control. Additionally a clearer explanations of grooming and boarding operations has been outlined as well as the inclusion of a relaxation on dog licensing for owners who put their dogs through recognized obedience training programs.
The revisions now outline that a service animal will mean “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal officially trained to provide assistance to an individual with a visible or non-visible disability.” Animals meeting the criteria will be considered service animals regardless of whether they have been certified by a local or governmental body.
The revised bylaw now defines a dog under control as being one that is “confined within a vehicle, properly confined within a secure enclosure, securely restrained by a leash or other devise held by a competent person [or] under voice command of a competent person who is in the immediate proximity of the dog.”
An addition to the license rebate section of the draft bylaw provides an opportunity for owners who present a Canadian Canine Good Citizenship Certificate with a one time waiving of their licence fee.
Further clarifications to the draft document outline that grooming and boarding operations will be treated as businesses if owners are charging for their services. As such, development permits and business licences will be required. Those providing boarding services will require a hobby kennel licence in addition to development permits and business licences.
Cat fines concern councillor
Council spent some time discussing the proposed increase on fines for cats at large to $120, a figure that is double the amount charged to owners of dogs at large.
“If I were a cat owner, I’d be concerned,” said Councillor Gordon Boddez, adding he felt the excessiveness of the fine might lead to an increase in euthanized cats among owners reluctant to pay the fine and pick up their animal.
Tona explained Morinville has a greater problem with cats at large than it does dogs at large by a factor of four-to-one. “There seems to be a great reluctance to curb one’s cats and take responsibility for them,” Tona said, adding $1,200 to $1,300 of a recent $1,900 vet bill the town received was attributed to cats at large.
Boddez also questioned the wisdom of charging a $1,000 fine for a dog that kills another animal when the fine for a dog attacking a person was only $500.
“I think in terms of the fines there’s some inconsistency,” Boddez said, adding he felt animals fight naturally. “It’s in their nature to do these things and an owner may not be there at the time.”
Tona explained the fine was larger to prevent an owner from encouraging their dogs to attack other animals and that a resident attacked by an animal has additional remedies available to them through the courts.
Now that council has given first reading to the bylaw, they are planning a public hearing during the Feb. 15 committee of the whole meeting. The bylaw would then come before council for second and third reading at the Feb. 22 regular meeting of Morinville Town Council.