Town council not in favour of imposing outright ban against pit bulls in Osoyoos
Despite several unprovoked pit bull attacks in town over the past three years, member of Town of Osoyoos council appear unwilling to ban future residents from owning the controversial breed.
The proposed recommendation to ban pitbulls in the community would only have affected future owners as current residents would have been “grandfathered” and allowed to keep their dogs.
However, it appears at least two members of council are strongly opposed to any breed specific prohibition and were strongly in favour of the current animal control and licensing bylaw that allows for strict and harsh action against any dog that is considered dangerous.
Coun. C. J. Rhodes said he is vehemently opposed to any breed specific prohibition, noting he personally knows many pit bull owners in town and their dogs are well mannered, gentle “and the best dogs in the world.”
“Prohibiting specific dog breeds leads to a very slippery slope,” said Rhodes.
If council voted in favour of prohibiting pitbulls, trying to enforce the bylaw by telling the dog’s owner that he or she would have to remove their pit bull from town limits immediately would not work in practice of theory, said Rhodes.
“Telling people they have to get (their dogs) out of the community, just isn’t going to work,” said Rhodes.
Coun. Mike Campol agreed, saying the current legislation to control and provide strict sanctions against dangerous dogs and their owners have proven successful.
“At the end of the day, it does fall on the backs of the owners,” said Campol. “The onus really does fall on ownership.”
Janette Van Vianen, the town’s director of corporate services, helped prepare the current animal control and licensing bylaw.
While the current bylaw does state that all pitbulls must be muzzled at all times once they leave private property, Van Vianen suggested many owners have refused to adhere to this provision, especially during the warm weather months.
There have been three high-profile incidents involving pitbulls in Osoyoos over the past three years.
In the first incident, a pit bull was brought to the town’s dog pound after an incident. At the pound, he managed to break free from his cage and attacked and killed another dog.
The following year, a pit bull attacked a small dog on Main Street. The small dog, which was old and fragile, died several weeks later.
This past summer, a pit bull jumped through a screen from his owner’s recreational vehicle and attacked a local senior and his small dog.
The senior suffered serious wounds to his legs and feet and his dog needed emergency surgery and lost an eye.
The pit bull in this incident was euthanized later the same day.
Mayor Sue McKortoff said it’s clear to her the majority of council wants the bylaw to reflect “responsible pet ownership” rather than breed specific prohibition.
Rhodes said he took the time to research the subject before speaking to council.
Information he gathered from the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club indicates there are seven breeds responsible for the vast majority of attacks and fatalities in North America, with pitbulls the most dangerous and Rottweiler’s second, said Rhodes.
But the evidence is clear every dog, like every human, has his or her own personality and their behaviour “is always shaped by environment,” said Rhodes.
There have been 454 confirmed deaths from dog attacks in North America over the past 32 years and pit bulls were responsible for 295 of those deaths, Rhodes acknowledged.
Any dog deemed dangerous by an animal control officer should be “penalized and punished in some way” and the current bylaw has proven this as an effective procedure, he said.
The town would be holding a public input meeting to discuss changes to the animal control and licensing bylaw before it appears again before council for third and final reading.
No date has been set for this public input session, but it’s expected to take place in January or February of 2016.
Revisions to the bylaw were made following concerns from members of the public in relation to dangerous dogs, as provided by the community charter.
Lori Scott, the town’s deputy corporate officer who completed the staff report on proposed revisions to the current bylaw, said council has also received several requests from citizens for dogs to be kept on leash and this not be limited to the downtown core.
“Many have also expressed that care and control should be extended beyond voice command to having actual physical control over a dog with the use of a leash,” she said.
Many local residents have expressed support for prohibiting ownership of pitbulls within the town, she said.
“Following extensive research of bylaws for municipalities in B.C. and other provinces, as well as reviewing the BC SPCA position on dangerous dogs, staff has found that several municipal bylaws lean toward responsible pet ownership, rather than prohibition of various breeds of dogs,” said Scott. “With more stringent restrictions and greater penalties in place the intention of those bylaws is to hold owners to a higher standard for control of dangerous dogs, which would hopefully lead to increased compliance and enhanced public safety.
“Conversely, the Province of Ontario … has placed an outright ban on the ownership and importing of pit bulls in that province. The ban has been in place for 10 years. Recently, Osoyoos has experienced several unfortunate incidents where people and smaller animals have been seriously injured following unprovoked attacks by pitbulls. Council is asked to consider whether it wishes to impose dangerous dog restrictions with respect to pitbulls or prohibit the breed altogether. The draft bylaw provides for the prohibition of ownership of pit bulls in Osoyoos.”
The proposed bylaw states that if the owner of a dangerous dog is unwilling or unable to comply with the requirements, the dog will be seized and impounded for 14 days, after which the dog would be euthanized in a manner approved by the B.C. Veterinary Medical Association.
The proposed bylaw also includes restrictions with respect to the ownership of exotic animals.
Staff has received several inquiries about owning exotic breeds of animals, such as pot-bellied pigs, as pets, said Scott. A concern with ownership of exotic animals or reptiles is the possible abandonment if they become too large or difficult to care for or if the owner simply loses interest in owning such a pet, she said.
Council has also received concerns about the ownership of Wolf-cross dogs and Timberwolves, she said.
The list of wild, exotic and prohibited animals in Osoyoos includes apes, monkeys, bears, elephants, seals, kangaroos, sloths, anteaters, all venomous and poisonous snakes, hyenas, hedgehogs, raccoons, whales, dolphins, and a long list of domestic birds.