Gilchrist: Bylaw puts bite on dangerous rural dogs

Bylaw changes are generally something so dull that even the most loyal reader will want to turn the page, but this is one worth reading about.

Ushered in along with the new year for four areas of the regional district is the dangerous dog bylaw approved last May.

During the one-year trial, it will cost ratepayers in areas I (Blue Sky Country), M (Nicola Valley), N (Lower Nicola) and P (Rivers and Sun Peaks, including Pinantan Lake) $4.37 per $100,000 of residential property assessment.

It's a move some will argue is unnecessary as there's already a "system" in place, but for those who feel there should be a safer way of resolving issues with dangerous dogs and their owners than pulling out a gun, it's a progressive and worthwhile investment.

Rural residents, like me, choose to reside where they do for many reasons - the opportunity to live in a larger space, the proximity to the great outdoors, the quiet, and for some, the freedom of being bound by fewer constraints than city folk.

But no one enjoys living under the strain and fear of having a dangerous dog roaming the neighbourhood, then trying to decide how to approach its generally unreceptive owner (they've never seen their dog act aggressively, right?) about the problem.

We had such an issue in Pinantan Lake last year, something that only resolved itself because the dog owners decided they didn't like rural living and moved into town.

Their two huskies were fenced but breached their enclosure several times - I saw them out on the lake ice in the spring, on the road and even in my yard.

I tracked down the owners twice, once figuring they would be concerned their beloved pets might fall through the melting ice and the second time annoyed that I didn't feel safe on my own property and was worried about our small pets; the dogs lunged at anyone who walked by their yard with frightening ferocity.

Turns out I had good reason for concern - while roaming the neighbourhood one day, they attacked two huge white geese as the peaceful pair wandered their unfenced yard, killing one (witnessed and filmed by children in the house).

Across the street from that carnage, the dogs breached another fence and mauled a family goat that suffered for days until it was put down.

Beyond knocking on the dog owners' door and asking for compensation, the owners of the deceased animals' had no other course of action available.

But if something like this happens now, the dangerous dog bylaw can set the wheels in motion so dogs like that never seriously harm another person's animal or (obviously) a person.

The bylaw won't reimburse for damages or erase grisly memories, but it will allow an animal control officer to investigate, decide if it's a dangerous dog, seize it and after several other steps, the dog could be put down.

There have already been some calls last month to the TNRD about the pending bylaw, an
early interest that indicates there is value in the bylaw.

What happens in the year ahead will show if the program is useful, after which time
regional district directors will determine whether it's working at putting the bite on dangerous dogs.

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