A Morinvillenews.com editorial
By Stephen Dafoe
In a slow news week television news programs need to fill the same time slot that they do when the streets are flush with stories. It is therefore no surprise that a story about Morinville’s potential banning of elephants, armadillos and other exotic animals would find itself on the tube last week, complete with accompanying footage of Godzilla terrorizing Tokyo and that scene from Jumanji where the elephants were running wild in the streets.
The added clips made for a funny holiday filler piece, but the central theme of the story has really created much ado about nothing.
The story, picked up from St. Albert Gazette reporter Kevin Ma’s report on Morinville’s proposed Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, went somewhat viral over the New Year’s weekend, travelling to various news sources off and online as one news source picked it up from another, few taking the time to do any original research on the topic.
While Morinville Town Council does in fact have a document in front of them proposing to outlaw elephants, armadillos, hippopotami and 127 other animals, the list of banned and prohibited animals are but a three-page appendix to a 56-page bylaw.
Kevin Ma made that clear in his Dec. 29 Gazette article. Global News did not, leaving viewers, including Morinville residents themselves, with the distinct impression that our tax dollars are being spent on cockamamie bylaws that do not address what is important to residents. It’s not a good impression to have hanging over council’s head when they just passed a budget authorizing the hiring of 14 new administrative staff.
But when you jam a microphone in someone’s face and ask them their thoughts on a possible elephant ban in town, chances are people are going to react with outrage or sarcasm. And why not – the idea is ludicrous when one does not have all the facts, and a two-minute news segment of which a large portion is consumed by stock video footage of animals (and Godzilla) running amuck through the streets does not provide all the facts.
Everyone has an opinion, but few people have an informed opinion. Sadly, many of those who saw the Global piece on Morinville’s elephant exodus are forming their opinion without realizing nine months of work has gone into a new bylaw that seeks to target those pet owners who do not take responsibility for their pets.
Should the bylaw be passed, Morinville residents who let their cats run about the streets defecating in their neighbour’s gardens will be looking at stiffer fines, as will residents who let their vicious dogs off the leash. The same bylaw will require residents with three or more cats or dogs to buy a kennel licence, and dog owners in general will have to keep their pets off school grounds, playgrounds and the splash park.
Of course none of those things (the meat of the proposed bylaw) match up well with clips from Jumanji or vintage Godzilla films.
Council tabled discussion of the bylaw Dec. 21 because it had not been brought before council prior to the meeting. During the course of the discussion that will be had between now and when the bylaw receives its three readings, some items will likely be added and some items will be removed or clarified.
Whatever shape the bylaw ultimately takes, the Town’s decision to shift from an Animal Control Bylaw to a Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw is something to be applauded, not ridiculed simply because the drafters of the bylaw wanted to include a list of prohibited animals and the media wanted a funny holiday story.
But whether the exclusion of elephants, armadillos and other exotic critters remain in the final draft of the bylaw or not, the content that does remain will be meaningless without enforcement. A $120 fine for roaming cats only keeps kitty off the streets if some roaming kitty’s owner is actually forced to dig in their pocket to pay the fine.
And with the number of cats using Morinville flower beds as a litter box, let’s all be thankful they’re thinking of banning elephants as pets.