Erika Paul, the SPCA’s senior animal protection and outreach officer, told North Cowichan’s council on Wednesday that putting the onus of responsibility back on the pet owners is one of the purposes of a new animal bylaw being considered by the municipality. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Vancouver Island council removes breed-specific clauses from animal bylaw

Breed-specific legislation to be scrapped

Pit bulls, pit bull crosses and related breeds will no longer be targeted with special legislation as part of the Municipality of North Cowichan’s new and updated animal responsibility bylaw.

Council decided at a committee of the whole meeting on March 20 that breed-specific legislation, which is in the municipality’s current animal control bylaw, will be removed in the new one.

The current bylaw defines a “vicious dog” as a dog with a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack other animals and humans, or a dog which has bitten or attacked, without provocation, another animal or human.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN CONSIDERS REVISING ANIMAL BYLAWS

The bylaw also includes in the vicious dog category pit bulls, American pit bull terriers, English bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers or any dog of mixed breeding which includes any of the mentioned breeds, excepting any dog registered with the Canadian Kennel Club.

Dogs who have been deemed “vicious” by the bylaw must be muzzled and on a leash under the care and control of a competent person whenever it is at large or in a public place.

They currently also face higher licensing and pound fees, even if individual dogs have no history of aggression.

A staff report was recommending that the vicious category be removed and replaced with two new categories; “aggressive” and “restricted”, with restricted including the pit bulls and the other breeds, but council’s decision on Wednesday means those designations will likely be completely dropped in the new bylaw.

The staff report stated that the muzzling of pit bulls and the other breeds and mixed breeds deemed vicious was the subject of much debate at a meeting in January seeking public input into the new bylaw.

North Cowichan’s corporate officer Karen Robertson, who wrote the staff report, said those who want the clause removed indicated that there hasn’t been enough long-term data collection and analysis to confidently state that breed-specific legislation works.

RELATED STORY: OFFICIALS SAY PIT BULLS DON’T ATTACK MORE THAN OTHER DOGS IN VICTORIA

As well, she said that the average person can have difficulty in identifying the difference between the various restricted breeds, and concerns were raised that other breeds that may have aggressive tendencies would be excluded from the bylaw.

Robertson said many of those who want the clause retained pointed out that hundreds of years of breeding for aggression has resulted in a dog that has a much higher prey drive than most breeds and their minds and bodies are designed to fight as much as a border collie enjoys stalking and herding sheep.

Christi Wright, from the United Paws for a Cause group that originally asked for changes to the animal bylaw, told the committee that she would like to see breed-specific legislation removed from the bylaw.

“The responsibility should be placed on pet owners, rather than specific breeds,” she said.

“Breed-specific legislation is costly and difficult to enforce, and doesn’t address the responsibility of the pet owners. Dogs that end up being deemed vicious are usually unsupervised, not neutered and not used to other dogs.”

RELATED STORY: ‘BREED NOT TO BLAME’, SAYS VICTIM OF PIT BULL ATTACK

Sue Stockland, director of Coastal Animal Services which is in charge of animal control in North Cowichan, said she realizes it’s a contentious issue, but it’s a fact that pit bulls and the other restricted breeds in the current bylaw have a long history of being bred for fighting and the killing of other animals.

She said these traits are more likely to show up in these breeds.

“Members of these breeds are bred to enjoy fighting and will fight to the death,” she said.

“Pit bulls give off no warning signals that they will attack so many owners don’t see the attack coming and can’t redirect the dog. Not all of them will attack, but there is higher chance they will over other breeds.”

Erika Paul, the SPCA’s senior animal protection and outreach officer, said she has never seen a dog-fighting ring in North Cowichan.

She said that while the breeds may have historically been bred to fight and be aggressive, most are not used for those purposes anymore.

“Over time, their blood lines are becoming diluted and the aggressive characteristics are being bred out of them,” Paul said.

“These are people’s pets and it’s up to them to ensure that they are good community members. Putting the onus back on the pet owners is one of the purposes of this new bylaw.”

The proposed new bylaw also calls for restrictions on how many pets a household can have and other animal welfare provisions.

The proposed new bylaw is expected to be tabled at council’s regular meeting on April 3 where it will be considered for its first three readings.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Vaping a growing problem in Sooke school district

Island’s chief medical officer raises the alarm

Island Health issues safer drug-use tips ahead of music festival season

Health authority aims to reduce overdose risks at festivals

Fate of accused in Saanich couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Victoria woman accesses healing Burn Fund resources 45 years after injury

Stasi Manser was burned when she was five years old and now works as an adult burn survivor advocate

Brentwood Bay fruit stand plundered on first day of season

Leeanne and Jack Guthrie dismayed to find money and fruit stolen from roadside stand

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

POLL: Do you think the penalty should be increased for tossing a burning cigarette from a vehicle?

With grasslands and forests around Vancouver Island and across B.C. reaching tinder… Continue reading

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Campers hailed heroes in rock face rescue at Vancouver Island provincial park

The campers quickly noticed the man in distress and jumped into the river to swim across.

Most Read