Friday, November 27, 2015

HRM's Bylaw A700 has set animal welfare back in Nova Scotia by 20 years - REVISED with new information

The Halifax Regional Municipality today released news that a new animal bylaw is coming into force tomorrow - A300 is not going to exist anymore, it's being amalgamated with A700 which previously just dealt with livestock - and what we are going to have now is by far the WORST ANIMAL BYLAW in Nova Scotia. (It's very interesting to note that we can't compare A700 to A300 - HRM has removed all traces of A300 from the municipality's website)

I'm going to go through piece by piece why I believe this - and I think by the end you'll agree with me - and I hope you will write your Councillor and ask why there was no public consultation on the bylaw - and if there was - why it wasn't on the news, or why no dog owner heard about the new bylaw until today!

So here we go -

You can read the bylaw in it's entirety at http://www.halifax.ca/legislation/bylaws/hrm/documents/By-LawA-700.pdf

The first thing is about "running at large" -

(v) “running at large” means to be off the property of its owner and:
(i) without a leash;
(ii) on a leash that is not held by a person; or
(iii) on a leash but not under the control of a person;

You can now be charged for your dog running at large if the "peace officer" doesn't believe that you have control of your dog! That's kind of subtle, isn't it? I have my dog on-leash, he is tethered to me - but the "peace officer" doesn't think that I have him under control - so he's going to charge me with something - and now he's got something he can charge me with! Isn't that wonderful! It's like "I'm going to charge you with something, so this is what I'm going to get you for!"  And just to note - it's a $200 fine - up to $5,000.

The second thing relates to noise - in A300 a dog could bark for 20 minutes before it was considered a nuisance, and the person being bothered had to fill out a "barking log" before they could contact animal control - it was also under the "nuisance bylaw", not the animal control bylaw - now it's under A700 and under section 12.2 it says:
(2) For the purposes of this section, evidence that one neighbour was unreasonably disturbed by the barking, howling or by the making of noise by the dog is prima facie evidence that the neighbourhood was unreasonably disturbed by such barking, howling or noise.
That means that if your neighbour is pissed off after FIVE MINUTES of your dog barking - they can call Animal Control - and it's considered a valid call. That is a HUGE CHANGE in the bylaw.

If you've got more than one dog - you've got a problem - if you've got 3 dogs, say - and one dog goes out and barks for 3 minutes, then goes in and your second dog runs out and barks for 3 minutes and then your 3rd dog goes out and runs around for 3 minutes - you've got yourself a barking problem - because that's now 9 minutes of barking. And if you've got a doggy day care in the HRM - you've got yourself a BIG PROBLEM now if you've got neighbours who are unhappy with you.

A new things relates to leash length:

(h) “leash” means a device made of rope, cord or similar material:
(i) used by a person to restrict the movement of an animal;
(ii) that is adequate for the purpose of restricting the animal; and
(iii) that does not exceed 3 meters in length;

No more retractable leashes - leashes can be no more than 10 feet in length - and most retractable leashes are 16 feet - so throw out your retractable leashes, they are now illegal


This is not new, but they've made it much worse -
17 (3) If any animal that is not a cat is running at large and cannot be apprehended safely, a Peace Officer, who believes on reasonable grounds that the animal poses a serious danger to the health or safety of a person or another animal, may immediately, without notice to the owner, destroy the animal, in a humane manner.

It used to say - "If any animal is at large and cannot be seized safely, an Animal Control Officer, who believes on reasonable grounds that the animal poses a danger to a person or another animal and the owner is not readily able to be found, may immediately, without notice to the owner, destroy the animal, in a humane manner"

So it used to say basically that animal control officers, NOT "peace officers" could shoot your dogs. We know that animal control officers don't carry guns - so really the point was useless. As well - it used to say that "the owner is not readily able to be found" - but that part has been taken away - so now the "peace officer can shoot your dog right in front of you.

So say you are in a park, and your dog is leashed to you - but he's growling and barking at a "peace officer", and the officer feels threatened - he can now legally shoot your dog.

Or if your dog is running at large, and the "Peace Officer" - and what is that? It could be a police officer, or an animal control officer - I don't know what that is - is chasing your dog - and it's running through a playground, and there's a couple kids there - and it's a pit bull say, and that "peace officer" has a certain disposition towards pit bulls - they can SHOOT YOUR DOG ON SIGHT now.

It has been in lots of animal bylaws across Nova Scotia - but as every bylaw across the province has been updated - it's been REMOVED from almost every one because it's an old and antiquated idea.

In 2011 I wrote a blog post about Yarmouth's potential dog bylaw and I addressed this very topic, in that post I said:

"The ability for Town Staff to shoot a dog on sight (or after capture) without notice to or complaint against the owner for infractions such as running at large, or eluding capture – and town staff being able to shoot on sight any dog is rabid or exhibits symptoms of canine madness: 
We do not have rabies in Nova Scotia yet in any number to be aware of – about 3 or 4 cases in the last 10 years – and only 1 or 2 of those (maybe) have been in a dog – to allow the shooting on sight of any dog for the perceived case of rabies based on those statistics – is not a reasonable argument. http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/anima/disemala/rabrag/statse.shtml#a2010

On page 27 and 28 of the Westville Nova Scotia dog bylaw - http://www.westville.ca/images/stories/Bylaws/Dog.pdf - you will find an explanation as to why “shoot on sight” statutes are in dog bylaws – it is because at one time more rural areas inserted them into bylaws for their ability to be able to shoot dogs that were being a nuisance to wildlife – it chasing wildlife – indeed, the Nova Scotia Wildlife Act still has a section allowing the shooting of dogs running at large in their statutes when unattended by their humans. 
It is perhaps appropriate when they are running at large in the woods after a deer – but not in the middle of a town when they are running down the middle of Main Street. If they are menacing and attacking a human – Police officers or another designated (armed) town official will obviously still be empowered through their other duties to shoot the dog – but a bylaw enforcement officer should not have the ability to shoot a dog on sight simply for a dog running at large in the 21st century."
PLEASE, Halifax Regional Municipality staff who write bylaws - THIS IS 2015! Things like this don't belong in animal bylaws! Things like this are being removed from bylaws. Give me a fucking break.

Okay, I'm going to calm down a little bit and move on to the next item.

Another problem is that the "licence administrator" seems to have a lot more power than they did in A300 -

They are empowered to:
4(b) issue an Order to comply with this By-law.
Under Section - "Duties of an animal owner" - it sets out the offences for when you own a dog or a cat, and in section 8.3 it says:

(3) The owner of an animal that is livestock shall build and maintain an enclosure sufficient to prevent escape.

Section 9 references section 8.3 and says
9. (1) Where the License Administrator has determined that the owner of an animal is not in compliance with clause 8(3), he or she may issue an Order to the owner that the owner shall, at the owner’s sole expense, build or maintain an enclosure.
But then section 9.3 says:

(3) (a) An owner may, within seven (7) calendar days of being served with an Order that was issued pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, appeal the Order of the License Administrator to the Committee.

What is this COMMITTEE? Who is on this committee? How does one get on this committee? We've never had a committee before? Where did this committee come from?

Cats don't get away with anything in this bylaw either - they have their own section now, and it's now illegal for them to shit on your neighbour's property -

Duties of A Cat Owner
10. It shall be an offence to own a cat that:
(a) damages public or private property; or
(b) defecates on any public or private property, other than the property of its owner, without the owner of the cat immediately removing the defecation.

So you better bring all your cats inside - because they are only allowed to shit on your own lawn now.

The last bad thing - and this was in A300 - but it needs to be removed, is 6c
(c) the description, including its sex, breed, and known or approximate age; 
The HRM wants to know the description of your dog - down to what breed your dog is.  I don't have to tell you - this is the first step towards breed discrimination - or more popularly known as BSL.

The city will now know where every registered pit bull is in the city - so if they decide that they don't want any more pit bulls - or they want to round up every pit bull type dog and kill them - they now have that information.  I would suggest to you that if you do register your dog and you have a pit bull - register him or her as a lab mix.  I know when I had a rottweiller I always registered her as a "doberman mix".  Beware.

So what do we do from here?

Contact your councillor and tell them that you are very unhappy that this bylaw has changed and you were not consulted and you want these things changed so that your dog is not in danger - because I can tell you - your dog is in DANGER right now.

Tell them that if these things in the current A700 are not changed - you may move out of the Halifax Regional Municipality - they may lose your tax dollars - because you love your dog(s) that much.

This is very serious.  We have been seriously had the rug pulled out from under us by this bylaw.

It is very obvious that the staff of the Halifax Regional Municipality HATES dogs - for what reason I have no idea but this has been building up to today for many years - and it has to stop today.

PLEASE, do not let this continue - A700 has to be repealed - for the love of your dog(s) - do something about this very dangerous bylaw.  The life of your dog(s) is at stake.  I am not kidding about this.  Read the bylaw and choose for yourself.

You can find out the contact information for your councillor here - http://www.halifax.ca/councillors/index.php

The press release that was posted today is here - https://apps.halifax.ca/hfxnews/3595

You'll notice that I didn't post any of the good things that were passed in the new bylaw - that's because the bad things in the new bylaw far outweigh anything that was passed that heinous and dangerous.


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Revision added at 10:24 pm November 27, 2015
I have been in contact with my Councillor - Stephen Adams, and he informed me that the Bylaw went before HRM Council for a public hearing on November, 10, 2015

You can watch the council meeting on video at http://archive.isiglobal.ca/vod/halifax/archive_2015-11-10_live.mp4.html - skip foward to section 9.2 to just hear the section about A700 - you'll hear the presentation by Andrea MacDonald.

She gave a presentation which you can see at http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/151110ca92pres.pdf

Their report - which will absolutely blow you away - is at http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/151110ca92.pdf

Andrea MacDonald, during the question and answer period with the Councillors, was asked a question by David Hendsbee - he asked her

"In regards to consultation with the general public there's some comments we received about some people feel that not enough public consultation has been done on this, so if this gets passed tonight in this forum what kind of communication strategy will we advise the public of these changes and if there should be any outcry for changes within the proposed bylaw would that be a simple amendment
Andrea MacDonald:  We would work with Corporate Communications to come up with a strategy to communicate the changes and I didn't get the second part, sorry.
David Hendsbee:  And if there's any outcry for possible adjustments within the bylaw would there be an opportunity to amend those within any reasonable time?
Andrea MacDonald:  I would assume they'd have to come back to Council

And that's all she said.

So I guess we need to contact our Councillors and demand that the Bylaw come back to Council for amendments.

What followed after this report was a Public Hearing.

And guess what - NOBODY SHOWED UP.

Why?

Because no dog owner in the HRM knew about it.

And the only people consulted about the bylaw was the NS SPCA, The NS VMA and the shelter keeper ie Homeward Bound - I can tell you that those 3 organizations don't speak for me.

Ridiculous.

Contact your Councillor and demand amendments to this horrible bylaw.

Further posts on this topic:

Should responsible dog owners be worried about Bylaw a700 in the HRM?

What's the difference between Animal Control and the SPCA?


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