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City drops breed-specific vicious dog bylaw

The City of New Westminster is no longer designating specific breeds of dogs as vicious or dangerous.

The City of New Westminster is no longer designating specific breeds of dogs as vicious or dangerous.

For many years, the city's bylaw has deemed certain dogs to be vicious based on their breed, including pit bull, pit bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, cane corso, Italian mastiff, presa canarios, fila Brasileiro and Argentinian dogo.

Those designations have been eliminated in the updated bylaw, which is now called the animal care and control bylaw.

"This classification system is not entirely effective," stated a staff report.

In addition to a community consultation process that included surveys and a public meeting, city staff surveyed other municipalities to consider "innovative ways" to deal with some of the challenges of managing dogs in the city.

The new bylaw, which has received three readings by council, eliminated the designation of certain breeds as being vicious and adds new definitions of aggressive, vicious and dangerous dogs to the bylaw.

Under the new bylaw, aggressive dogs, which are those that have displayed aggressive behav-ior toward a person or domestic animal or have caused a minor injury to another domestic animal or human being, would need to be kept on a leash of maximum one metre in length, be muzzled when in off-leash areas and must have permanent identification.

Vicious dogs, which are animals that have caused serious injury or are known to attack without provocation, are not permitted to enter off-leash areas at any time and must have permanent identification. Their owners must post a warning sign on their premises about the vicious dog.

Dangerous dogs, which are dogs that have killed or seriously injured a person or a domestic animal (other than on the owner's property) or believed to be likely to kill or seriously injure a person, must abide by the same leash, muzzle, warning sign and identification restrictions as dogs classified as aggressive or vicious.

In addition, dogs classified as dangerous must be kept in an enclosure when on their owner's property, must be photographed for identification purposes, and their owners must have liability insurance of $1 million.

"Staff believe the proposed animal care and control bylaw will result in significant benefit to the residents of New Westminster and the animals in the community," stated the report. "Ensuring a safer com" munity is part of the mandate of animal services; and the new bylaw will increase compliance and will enhance public safety while placing greater responsibility for animal behavior on their owners."

The Pacific Volunteer Education and Assistance Team for Animals Society, a New Westminster based society that advocates for animal issues, supports the bylaw.

"One of the things we like off the top is the new name - animal care and control bylaw," said Cheryl Rogers, one of the group's founders. "Care is in there - that's new. I think it's important it's in the bylaw."

Like several other animal rights groups that advocated for changes to the bylaw, the society opposed breed specific designations in the city's bylaw.

"Ban the deed - not the breed," said Rogers, referring to a bumper sticker. "It's a case of owner education."

Although the updated animal care and control bylaw incorporated changes to deal with aggressive, vicious and dangerous dogs, it was another section of the bylaw that generated the most discussion among council members.

One section of the bylaw states that no owner shall keep more than three dogs on any parcel of land or property.

Coun. Lorrie Williams questioned whether the wording of the bylaw could be amended to reflect the fact that some residents may have more than three dogs when their pets have puppies or when someone is temporarily fostering dogs.

"It's more beneficial for the city to work with them on a case-by-case basis than having it in a bylaw," Sukh Maghera, the city's coordinator of parking and animal services, said about cases where the city would allow someone to have more than three dogs.

Because the intent of the limit is to prevent backyard breeders, staff suggested the bylaw limit remain in place and deal with other situations as they arise.

"There's a difference between having three Chihuahuas and three wolf hounds," said Coun. Jaimie McEvoy.

Jim Lowrie, the city's director of engineering, said the city's solicitor had vetted the bylaw.

Instead of making "on the fly" changes to the bylaw, he recommended that council approve the bylaw as written and staff create an enforcement policy relating to residents having more than three dogs.

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