The city is taking a second look at a bylaw that would restrict dog owners from walking certain breeds following an outcry from the public.
The bylaw restricted owners from walking dangerous or high risk dogs in public, as well as specific breeds including Rottweilers, Doberman Pinchers and Pitbulls.
It’s encouraging news for dog advocates such as Meadow Lake and District Humane Society president Jillian Doucet, who owns two of the aforementioned breeds and once slept in the humane society to raise money for an off-leash dog park.
She believes the city is unfairly discriminating against certain breeds.
“It’s not the breed, it’s the owners,” she said. “It’s a matter of responsible ownership.”
She said the humane society does a rabies check for every bite incident reported, and thus far has only documented one Rottweiler bite incident.
“The majority of dog bites that happen are a result of unfixed animals,” Doucet added. “I think that’s more of a problem than breed-specific stuff.”
When asked what prompted the new bylaw, interim city manager Richard Levesque said the city previously had an issue with a Rottweiler on the loose and a drug dealer with a pitbull.
But Doucet said the latter example only lends further credence to her idea that bad dog behaviour is ultimately the responsibility of the owners.
Mayor Gary Vidal supported sending the bylaw back to council for some further “reworking”, but said he supports the concept in theory.
“I’m personally pretty convinced that there’s merit in the breed-specific legislation, to some point,” he said. “I’m not saying we have it right.”
He compared the ownership of what are perceived to be high risk breeds to car insurance for people who drive sporty cars.
“If you want to be pro-active, you have to look at the statistics … (and) the statistics still show there are certain breeds that come with a higher risk than other breeds, owner or not,” he said.
He said it would be a mistake for the city to wait for an incident to happen in order to create breed-specific legislation.
“Quite frankly, I don’t want to be the mayor of a city that had a chance and didn’t take that chance,” he said. “One of our primary functions, along with fiscal responsibility, is public safety.”
But Jennie Andres, a teacher at Jonas Samson Junior High and board member at the humane society, said the bylaw might discourage potential pet owners from adopting those breeds because they’ll be confined to backyards.
“If they ban specific breeds and don’t allow us to have certain breeds out in the public, I’m going to have students that aren’t going to be allowed to take certain dogs for walks,” she said. “And then we’ll have people who are going to believe that those dogs are dangerous and vicious, and they won’t want to adopt them.”
Furthermore, she said the program could shrink because many of the boys volunteer because the love playing with the larger breeds, such as Rottweiler crosses.
“It’s definitely putting a lot of animals at a disadvantage, and also really limiting a program that’s fantastic for students in this community,” she said.
Council voted unanimously on a motion to send the bylaw back to staff for tweaking. Levesque said it’s possible the breed-specific clause could be removed entirely for a case-by-case model.
“If there’s a dog that appears to have an aggressive nature or we have a complaint about, we would request the bylaw officer go to the house and check it out, and possibly work with the humane society to verify if it does have aggressive nature,” he said.
The humane society said they would be willing to work with the city to identify dogs for dangerous or high-risk behaviour.
This story originally appeared in the Meadow Lake Progress.