Animal Control Bylaw finally passed by City council

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The long-debated Animal Control Bylaw was finally passed by City council Oct. 3 – but not before more debate and a successful motion to “reconsider” the bylaw.

The first issue to be debated was the number of dogs per person allowed in off-leash areas. Councillor Candice Kolson was pushing for no limit; however, the majority of council did not agree with her and that amendment to the bylaw was defeated.

“I’m disappointed. Now neighbours who own two dogs can’t (help) their neighbours who own two dogs,” Kolson said.

A motion to approve third reading of the bylaw with a limit on the number of dogs allowed per person in an off-leash park of three was also defeated, effectively killing the bylaw and sending Municipal Enforcement (ME) staff back to the drawing board.

“I’m very disappointed that we weren’t able to pass this bylaw,” Kolson said, “because now it doesn’t give our enforcement officers the tools to be able to deal with all these issues.”

Manager of Legislative Services and Corporate Communications Sharon Pollyck informed council they could make a motion to “reconsider” the bylaw if they wished rather than sending staff away to prepare a completely new version of the bylaw.

Council approved a motion to reconsider the bylaw and ultimately voted in favour of a version of the bylaw that limits the number of dogs per person in an off-leash park to six and the number of dogs and cats per household to three.

The bylaw and issues around pet ownership had clearly become important to Kolson.

“I still don’t support that we’re telling people how many pets they can have in their own home,” she said, “when we have federal and provincial laws in place to deal with animal neglect and we have bylaws in place to deal with nuisance neighbours and so on.”

Councillor Fred Burley said he initially voted against limiting the number of cats per household because “cats are different than dogs. First time (cat) licensing, I would rather have seen a number that’s more palatable for people to accept. Start with that number and then work our way down in the future.”

Burley said he would support the limit of three cats per household because he felt it was time to approve the bylaw and move on.

The bylaw has been coming to council for review since early 2015. Leading up to the bylaw coming to council for first and second reading Sept. 6, ME conducted extensive public feedback on the bylaw.

Third reading of the bylaw was not granted permission at that meeting after Kolson asked that limits on dogs allowed in off-leash parks be reconsidered.

Under the new bylaw, residents will be required to license their cats, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor cats. Licensing fees are lower for cats than for dogs.

The fee for unneutered cats is $30 per year while cats that have been neutered will be licensed for $15 per year. The fee for unneutered dogs is $60 per year and the fee for neutered dogs is $35 per year. There are no licensing fees for service dogs or foster dogs or cats.

People who currently own more than three cats will be allowed to keep them but not replace them in the future.

The new bylaw gives ME officers tools to deal with vicious dogs and nuisance pets. However, a dog can only be deemed vicious by a justice of the court. Once a dog has been declared to be vicious, the owner must pay a $250 per year licensing fee and follow a number of restrictions, including completing dog behaviour training by a qualified trainer and having liability insurance of no less than $1 million.

Cats left to roam may be trapped but only after a resident makes a complaint to ME and rents a humane cat trap from the City.

The new bylaw comes into effect immediately. For more information, visit the City’s website, airdrie.com

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