The District of Houston is currently in the process of revising its animal control regulations after complaints about dogs nearly tripled in 2018 compared to previous years.
Between January 2018 and the beginning of December, the district received 32 complaints about dogs. Over the previous 10 years, there were 11.3 complaints per year on average.
Last year’s complaints included allegations about dogs barking, dogs at large, defecation on public property, abandoned dogs and dangerous dogs.
“Complaints received to date have highlighted significant deficiencies in the existing bylaw,” said Gerald Pinchbeck, Houston’s chief administrative officer, in a report to council last month. “The first and foremost among them is the lack of enforcement tools for aggressive dogs and dangerous dogs.”
At present, the district’s only method of regulating in relation to dogs which pursue, attack, injure or kill animals and people is to impound the animal and seek destruction of the dog through an application to the B.C. Supreme Court. However, Pinchbeck says there are no requirements for owners to confine these dangerous dogs after a designation and release, or in a situation where the dog is not able to be destroyed.
Additionally, the district has no regulations regarding dogs which are abandoned, nor dogs defecating on public property which is not a park.
“The bylaw has shown its age, and to address certain aspects of its enforcement moving forward, it will need to be updated,” added Pinchbeck.
A new bylaw – Animal Control Bylaw No. 1112, 2018 – has been drafted to update the existing regulations. Council will be considering first reading of the bylaw at the Jan. 15, 2019 regular meeting.
According to Pinchbeck, the most significant changes are to how the district would regulate in relation to aggressive and dangerous dogs moving forward.
If a dog is designated as an aggressive or dangerous dog, additional requirements would be imposed on the owner. These include requirements to confine the animal in a secure enclosure or building, to muzzle and leash the dog when not inside an enclosure, and to display warning signs. In addition, the owner must sterilize the animal, implant a microchip in the dog to allow for its location, and notify the district if the dog is at large or deceased.
The proposed bylaw includes other new provisions, including:
– An owner must ensure any dog in their possession is vaccinated against rabies;
– An owner must keep the premises where an animal is kept in a clean and tidy condition, free from the buildup of excrement and other hazardous waste;
– A person must not abandon a dog outside of a fenced enclosure or building for longer than 15 minutes, even if such dog is on a leash or tether;
– If a dog defecates on any public or private property other than the owner’s premises, the owner must remove the feces immediately;
– A person must not allow any dog in their possession to howl or bark for more than five minutes over any one-hour period from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., or three minutes over any one-hour period between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
If adopted, the new bylaw will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, allowing the district time to implement it before the next licensing year.