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Nuisance, vicious dogs targeted in bylaw update

New bylaw would replace existing dog and cat bylaws in Didsbury

DIDSBURY - Council has given first reading to a proposed new animal control bylaw which includes new provisions to address nuisance and vicious dog complaints.

The move came by way of motion at the recent regularly scheduled council meeting, held in person and on YouTube.

Penalties under the proposed new bylaw include mandatory court appearances for the owner of a vicious dog that attacks, bites or otherwise injuries any person.

“An updated bylaw is needed due to a lack of options for strict enforcement concerning repeat offenders or severe incidents involving dogs and/or cats,” said Ethan Gorner, the town's chief administrative officer. “The new bylaw establishes an updated and improved framework for facilitating responsible pet ownership in town.”

Bylaw 2022-17 was created by administration in cooperation with Town of Didsbury community peace officers and the manager of legislative services.

Melissa Trotter is one of the town’s community peace officers and is in charge of animal control.

“The one thing people will probably notice with the new one (bylaw) is us having the ability to have a dog deemed vicious,” Trotter told the Albertan. “In the previous bylaw we did not have the ability to deem a dog vicious.”

Section 83 of the proposed bylaw says the town may designate an animal to be vicious and require the owner to obtain a vicious animal licence for such an animal in several cases, including:

• The animal has caused several injury to a person, whether on public or private property.

• The animal has, while off its owner’s property, caused severe injury to another animal or the death of another animal.

• There are reasonable grounds to believe the animal poses a risk to the health and safety of person in the town.

• The animal has engaged more than once in threatening behaviour such as charging or chasing a person, causing injury to a person through means of charging/chasing, or biting a person and/or another animal without injury.

Under the proposed bylaw, the Town of Didsbury may order the owner of an animal alleged to be a vicious animal to surrender that animal to an officer to be impounded pending the outcome of the town’s decision on whether the animal should be designated a vicious animal and any related appeal.

An animal designated to be a vicious animal will have the designation continue to apply if the animal is sold, given away or transferred to a new owner, and the owner must disclose an animal to have been designated vicious when selling, giving away or transferring the animal to a new owner.

Where the Town of Didsbury designates an animal to be vicious, the owner must within 10 days have a licensed veterinarian either tattoo the animal with a visible tattoo or implant an identifiable microchip in the vicious animal and provide the information contained on the tattoo or microchip to the town officer.

The proposed bylaw also requires the owner of the vicious animal to post warning signs at each entrance to the premises where the animal is kept.

For first offences, the proposed bylaw includes a $1,500 fine for a vicious dog chasing a person, and a mandatory court appearance for the owner of a vicious dog that injuries, bites or otherwise attacks any person. 

The proposed bylaw also includes a new nuisance animal section.

“The nuisance is not for a dog being vicious,” Trotter said. “It’s more for when there have been repeated reports of a dog or cat running at large and the owner has not been responsible (in controlling the animal). They are friendly dogs but the owner can’t seem to keep them at home.”

Under the proposed bylaw the Town of Didsbury may designate an animal to be a nuisance animal and require the owner to obtain a nuisance animal licence for such an animal where the animal has engaged in repeated threatening or aggressive behaviour, has been found to be running at large more than once, or repeatedly barks, howls or otherwise makes or causes noise which disturbs any person.

Conditions imposed on the owner of a dog designated a nuisance include requiring the animal to be kept indoors between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and requiring the animal to be kept in a secure pen or secure fenced area when outside.

The vicious animal licence fee is $200 and the nuisance animal licence fee is $100.

After giving first reading to the proposed new bylaw, council referred it to the Policy and Governance Committee for review.

If passed, Bylaw 2022-17 would replace the town's existing dog and cat bylaws.