Sunday, May 8, 2011

An Open Letter to the Yarmouth Town Council

To Mayor Mooney and The Yarmouth Town Council
Please allow me to assure you that this is not an appeal for compassion.  Nor will it contain any of the sentiments so strongly expressed on both sides of the dog bylaw debate.
Instead, the undersigned is curious as to what consideration has been given to the cost of implementing the proposed draft dog bylaw.  Have forecasts of the additional budget requirements for implementation and enforcement been prepared?
It should be noted that these calculations cannot possibly predict the budget implications for legal disputes that will arise from clauses relating to BSL, pet limits and liablity insurance.   A determined dog owner will not hesitate to take legal action if the life of their pet is at stake.
Breed specific legislation has been successfully overturned in Guysborough County by Judge Stroud in December 2006, after a lengthy legal battle between the municipality and  Marilyn and Willard Cameron of Country Harbour.
The legal dispute between Ms. F. Rogier and the Halifax Regional Municipality has been ticking along on the taxpayers' dime since 2008, and will continue at least until the next court date in November of this year.  In the interim, sheltering and medical costs continue to accrue.  It must be noted that more than half the tax paying population in this province resides in HRM.   Such substantial legal bills would have a stronger fiscal impact in a smaller community such as Yarmouth.
The advent of DNA testing for dogs further complicates the burden of proof issue.   The inaccuracies of visual identification result in unnecessary staff, sheltering and legal fees.
In Canada, a dog is legally considered to be owned property.  Breed specific legislation removes the onus of responsibility from all dog owners and places it firmly on the shoulders of the dog.  The City of Calgary has reduced its dog bite incidents by 25 % with a fee structure that both funds its animal control activities and encourages responsible pet ownership.  
All of these costs would be readily welcomed by your taxpayers if the draft dog bylaw could create a safer community.   There is no historical evidence in North America or Europe to support such a theory.  At best, such as in Britain,  the bans have had no effect on stopping dog attacks. (B. Klaassen, JR Buckley& A.Esmail Does the Dangerous Dog Act Protect Against Animal Attacks:  A Prospective Study of Mammalian Bites in the Accident and Emergency Department, 27(2) Injury 89-91 (1996)
At worst, as in Denver, Colorado, after twenty years it has been determined that the most likely dog to bite is now a Labrador Retriever Peter Marcus, Do Dog Breed Bans Work? Denver Daily News, March 3, 2009 )
In the current fiscal climate, taxpayers expect politicians who represent them at all levels to make responsible use of their tax dollars.   To make matters worse, municipal taxpayers will soon face additional burdens as previously provincial responsibilities  are downloaded to our Nova Scotia Municipalities.
Taking a problem oriented approach to Animal Control has yielded good results in Calgary.  Instead of discriminating against breeds of dogs, Calgary protects the public from all aggressive dogs, regardless of breed. Using the problem-oriented model, the city’s animal-control wardens focus on public education and stiff fines.
Economic impact is not limited to administrative, enforcement, sheltering and legal costs.   Devoted pet owners who choose to commute rather than live in a community that restricts their choice of pet can have a negative impact on real estate prices which in turn can diminish the property tax base. 
Nor does breed specific legislation encourage devoted pet owners to contribute to the local economy or tax base by moving to the municipality. 
In addition, there would be very little prospect for economic opportunities offered by events such as flyball tournaments and dog shows.  Nor will Breed Specific legislation encourage tourism.
In 2007, the city of Tacoma, Washington, created an ordinance regulating “problem pet owners.” A person who commits three or more animal-control violations in a 24-month period can be declared a problem pet owner and forced to surrender all of their animals.  Such an approach could more effectively address the current concerns in your community than by penalizing the responsible, taxpaying pet owners who were never part of the problem in the first place.
Closer to home, the new Annapolis County Dog Bylaw offers another example worth considering.   They have taken the innovative step of introducing lifetime licenses to encourage registration and reduce administrative costs.  Nor have they felt the need to legislate limits on the number of pets.  
Mapping out the fiscal bite of BSL will ensure that your council will not have to contend with disillusioned tax paying voters when emotions have cooled and clearer heads prevail.
Thank you in advance for your time and attention,
Janet Young

1 comment:


Great letter Janet and oh so factual. Taking the bite out of the emotion and showing the fiscal ramifications is a major consideration. Tourist dollars too could dwindle. Thank you for posting about this topic.