by Tristan Turner

Council has unanimously passed First Reading to the new Animal Control Bylaw, following some tweaks and changes. The new Bylaw, named the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, makes significant changes to pet ownership in Morinville. Community Peace Officer William Norton, who was on hand at the meeting to take questions from Council, developed the new Bylaw based on input from the failed Animal Control Bylaw brought to Council late last year.

Notably, if passed, the Bylaw will allow the registering of nearly any safe animal, including chickens, pigs, goats or other less common animal companions, among other changes.

The new legislation would also require all dogs to be kept on a leash and under the control of the owner at all times when off private property or designated off-leash areas in town.

Additionally, all animals will face the same registration process with the Town, and all animals, cats, dogs and unusual pets, will need to be registered for $50 to $100, with an annual renewal of $10 instead of the current annual licensing requirement. This registration process would be slightly different for registering chickens, however, with a flat rate to register all animals at once, something that may apply to other animal’s at Enforcement Services’ discretion, according to Norton.

The Bylaw, as presented for First Reading, did not include a reduction in fees for residents who have microchipped/tattooed and spayed/neutered their dogs and cats, but Councillor Stephen Dafoe felt that should be included as it had been discussed by Council previously. Norton responded saying he intended for the reduction to be included in the Bylaw, but it was overlooked. A unanimous motion of Council directed Administration to include the change for Second Reading.

Some other changes that were incorporated by Council before passing First Reading included some housekeeping items to add clarity and a motion, unanimously passed, put forward by Councillor Dafoe to include some specifications in the Bylaw for the care of chickens. The Bylaw, as written, allows for backyard birds, but has no guidelines as to quantity, type or housing conditions, something Dafoe took issue with during the discussion and in the past.

Dafoe also took issue with a double standard that would allow some animals, like chickens, to be registered for one fee as a group, while others, like dogs and cats, are required to be registered individually.

The Bylaw faced some other questions from Council, including Councillor Nicole Boutestein arguing that the process under the new Bylaw may not remain consistent between all applicants. Under the new rules, Enforcement Services can apply any particular requirements to any application from a specified list of potential requirements, something Boutestein said could lead to different conditions for different people.

Norton conceded that this change may lead to different requirements for different owners applying for the same pets, but said that this system allowed the Town to be more flexible and apply more restrictions in specialized cases.

Second – and potentially Third – Reading of the Bylaw will be heard at Council’s next meeting on June 14th. A public hearing is no required, although one was asked for and held by Council when the first version of the Bylaw came forward some months ago.

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