It usually begins with a dog attack ... and this instance was no different. In 2011, a woman was attacked and severely injured by a pit bull in Yarmouth. The resulting side show seemed to utterly overlook the fact that the victim had actually broken into the dog owners apartment when he was not home.
Initially there was a hue and cry for immediate implementation of BDL in the Municipality of Yarmouth.
Animal advocates around the province quickly responded with emails to the Yarmouth Mayor and Town Council! Dog Trainers, behaviourists and even the ED of the provincial society stepped up at the public meeting in Yarmouth to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
As a result, although the new Dog Bylaw is far from perfect, the Town of Yarmouth is to be congratulated for NOT including BDL in the package.
The short version of this story is that it is possible to stop the runaway train that is BDL before it things get too badly off the rails.
As we speak, there is some cause for optimism that the current draconian BDL measures in Ontario's Dangerous Dog Act may be repealed ..... if Bill 16 gets out of the legislative committee gate and passes the third reading.
If you live in Ontario, please Click Here for information on how you can help by letting your MLA know this is an issue that matters to you as a tax paying voter!
BDL can be revoked. Just this year, thanks to the hard work of Shelly Hipson and PET Projects, the Municipality of Shelbourne took the heroic step of removing BDL from their own dog Bylaw. While there are still pockets of BDL ( Richmond and Guysborough Counties), it is always a step ahead wherever and whenever BDL is revoked.
Straight, sweet and simple ... the way ahead for the animals will ALWAYS be paved with strong voter feedback. Here in Nova Scotia, there is a proactive animal loving community that pays close attention to all dog bylaw activity around the province.
Three years ago, the (then) PC government tried to sneak BSL in the back door under the guise of a Municipal 'housekeeping' bill ( bill 138 ). Politicians around the province were gobsmacked at the immediate groundswell from the grass roots level ... and the offending clauses 6-8 were removed before the bill was passed.
It is important to pay attention to what our politicians are doing on our behalf, eh?
The following is the letter that this middle aged granny sent, which addresses the economic fallout that results from BDL. We will be forever grateful for the research material that Ledy Van Kavage so generously shared. I have included it, just in case the day ever comes when someone might need it again.
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,