Central Alberta town changing animal rules

Central Alberta town changing animal rules

OLDS — The Town of Olds’ proposed new animal bylaw is one step closer to being passed.

It received second reading during town council’s Feb. 26 meeting.

Administrative staff will now rejig it to reflect votes taken by councillors on various sections of the bylaw, then bring it back for third reading at a later date.

Three changes were made.

Section 60 was modified to allow households, when approved by town staff, to foster more than three dogs or a litter of dogs.

Section 49 was removed, which stated that all animals except urban hens must wear a purchased licence when off the owner’s property.

Coun. James Cummings said that section was unfair for people who walk around town with their pet lizards, or a kind of parrot for example.  

Section 66 was changed to decrease the number of off-leash dogs allowed in an off-leash area from six to three dogs per owner at one time.

In the case of the maximum number of pets allowed per household, that figure was three under the old bylaw. However, when the bylaw was initially introduced, that figure had risen to six.

The number of cats allowed stays the same, at six.

“We’re not changing the number of cats. It’s still at six. It has been at six and we’re not increasing it to six,” senior community peace officer Paul Wright said.

On Feb. 12, council gave first reading to administration’s initial proposed bylaw. It would not only have allowed up to six dogs, but also proposed a licence good for the lifetime of each licensed pet.

Mayor Judy Dahl noted that since that meeting, all councillors received at least 14 emails from residents concerned about it.

Coun. Dan Daley advanced the exemption idea.

However, Coun. Heather Ryan, who runs a business involving dogs and has some of her own, said six dogs is too many.

“To have four or five or six would just be chaos,” she said.

“You create a pack mentality … the more dogs you have, the more danger you can create a possible situation.”

Ryan also questioned the ideal of the lifetime licence, saying it’s unfair for people who just move into town for a year or two to have to pay $100 for a licence for their pet.

She said if residents were to pay $25 per year for a licence for their pet, over time, that would more than pay for itself; possibly double the revenue for the town.

“We’re always talking about sources of revenue, and this is a source of revenue. Why would we change that,” she asked.

Ryan liked an idea advanced by Coun. Wanda Blatz earlier, that residents have an option to pay year-to-year or a lifetime fee.

Sgt. Wright said one reason for the lifetime licence is to encourage pet owners to be “more responsible.” He said there’s another reason, but it had to be unveiled in private, so council did go behind closed doors to talk about it for a while.

Protective services director Justin Andrew noted that current licence owners would be grandfathered in.  

He said another reason for the lifetime fee is efficiency. It’s difficult for example, for bylaw staff to determine the age of any given dog.

Coun. James Cummings pointed out that “stretching out” licences or renewals is an ongoing trend. He noted that passports for example, can be renewed every 10 years at least.

“It is more convenient as a dog owner,” he said. “It would make my life a lot easier as a homeowner, or a pet owner of five pets (if) I don’t have to come in every year and renew my five pets or one passes away and (I) get a new one.

“I understand that concern: oh you only moved to Olds for one year. Well, suck it up princess, you moved to Olds — to new community — for one year. And you’ve gotta pay,” Cummings added.

“A person moves to my town for one year to live here and brings their pets, there’s a cost to short-term living and that’s what it is.

“You pay the fees (in) the municipality you move to. And then you pay the fees at the next municipality that you move to and the next municipality that you move to. That’s just life choices.”

Daley wondered about cutting the licence fee to zero, but that idea didn’t seem to fly.

Ryan also said people should not be allowed to bring six dogs to the off-leash dog park and called for that figure to be cut to three. She said that number of dogs is “just uncontrollable.”

Cummings agreed with Ryan on that point.

“As a dog owner, I have three dogs that I take to the dog park on a daily basis,” he said.

“I’ll say right off the bat that we have control of our dogs 99 per cent of the time, but nobody can have control of all of their dogs 100 per cent of the time.

“The more dogs, the less likely that happens. Even (dog training TV star) Cesar Milan has a difficult time controlling six dogs at the same time.”

Coun. Darren Wilson said he had no problem with dropping the off-leash number to three, but said the number isn’t necessarily the issue – it’s the behaviour of the dog.

“There’s people that have one dog there and can’t control one dog,” he said.

“So the fact that you have six dogs does not mean that you can’t control your six dogs. Sometimes those six dogs are the most well-behaved dogs versus the one dog that isn’t.”


Central Alberta town changing animal rules

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