So tonight I went to the Halifax Regional Council Meeting because they were going to have a Public Hearing and Debate on the proposed harmonized dog and cat bylaw - Bylaw A300. There were 32 people on the docket to speak at the Public hearing and I think I was about number 29! The meeting started at 6pm and I got to speak at about 9:30pm. For the first 2 1/2 hours I sat in an overflow room because the Council chambers were full to capacity - so there were a LOT of Halifax Regional Municipality tax payers who wanted to have their say about this proposed bylaw - and there were actually quite a few people who had some pretty good things to say. And some pretty provocative things to say too.
Even some of the Councillors said out loud that the Bylaw was garbage - which I thought was a bit uncalled for - Councillor Steve Streatch almost swore when it was suggested that barn cats on farms were considered domestic pets simply because they were cats and not livestock - so they would have to be licenced under the new bylaw.
Also - kennels and that section of the bylaw was talked about a lot - the fact that serious CKC hobby breeders wouldn't be able to operate under the proposed bylaw because they wouldn't be able to be zoned appropriately since almost all CKC breeders in the Municipality currently operate out of their own homes - so they are "in home occupations" - but a kennel under the land use bylaws wouldn't be zoned as an appropriate in home occupation - so all reputable CKC breeders would either have to shut down or move outside the Municipality if the bylaw passes as it's currently written.
Another huge thing is that all reptiles - iguanas, snakes, spiders - everything - are going to become illegal to own - and there's NO GRANDFATHER CLAUSE - that's been taken out. So anything that's owned currently is going to suddenly become illegal and have to be surrendered so that it can be killed. Can you imagine? There's no place to take the animals - so they'll all have to be killed. Now THAT is unacceptable.
The owner of the Atlantic Cat Hospital - Dr. Hugh Chisolm also talked tonight during the public hearings - and he had some really good things to say - he said the document is "reactive" - not "proactive" - which I thought was neat. He also said that most responsible cat owners keep their cats inside - and licencing those cats REALLY does NOT make sense. Pierre Trudeau said that government does not belong in the bedrooms of Canadians - and maybe we should take a cue from him - the HRM does not belong in the living rooms of HRM'S cat owners. Now THAT was a neat thing to say - because it's TRUE!
So now we're on to what I had to say - it was all about Daisy, as things like this usually are. There wasn't a whole lot of people left to hear what I had to say - but at least all the Councillors heard it - and my Councillor, Steve Adams emailed me after I gave my speech and said "You made a great presentation this evening. I've got to meet your dogs." - which I thought was nice.
So here's what I said, loosely -
What I want to talk about is a very narrow part of the bylaw - It's in the "interpretation" section – Item Number 2 – section 1 D – where it gives the definition of "attack" – it says attack means to attack without provocation, to chase, injure, or bite, - or to threaten or "give the impression of threatening". That last part – "give the impression of threatening" – to me – is way too vague – and could be used by people who have an unrealistic fear of dogs or have a
low tolerance for any kind of dog/human interaction.
Especially if you read a little bit further – because as well in the Interpretation section – Number 2 section 1 G defines a "Dangerous dog" as any dog which "attacks" or demonstrates a propensity to attack a human being or animal, either on public or private property.
In Section 1D – it's already stated that all you need to do to prove an attack is that the dog has "given the impression of threatening" – so now in Section 1G a dangerous dog is defined as a dog who "attacks" – therefore all a dog needs to do to be deemed dangerous under this proposed bylaw is to "give the impression of being threatening. And I don't think that's right.
The reason why I'm being sticky about this is that I have what I believe to be the most beautiful 3 dogs in the whole of the universe – a lab mix named Charlie, a bichon mix named Buttercup – and a rottweiller mix named Daisy.
Note: At this point I lifted up a picture of Daisy - which I have posted here:
Anyone who actually gets to meet and talk – and Daisy LOVES to TALK – with my rottweiller Daisy – falls head over heels in love with her. But people who only LOOK at Daisy – tend to be afraid of her. Daisy was tied to a dog house in Richmond County Cape Breton for the first 3 years of her life and didn't learn a lot of the skills dogs learn in their day to day living because of that. She is NOT a dangerous dog, she is NOT dog aggressive, but she unfortunately LOOKS a certain way –
she can certainly GIVE THE impression of being threatening.
Does that make her a dangerous dog? Simply because of the way that she looks? I think we all know that is not true – if we're in this room tonight, we're here because we're pretty animal savvy – and I wanted to get Daisy's face out there to show you that if you leave that wording in the 2 sections of the interpretation – you are going to be potentially KILLING dogs just like her – simply because of the
way they look – simply because they LOOK menacing.
By leaving wording that is intentionally vague like that in the Bylaw – everytime my Daisy goes out in public – someone could say that she "attacked" them simply because she ran up to them – and they felt "menaced" by her. And if you don't think it could happen – it DID happen to me this summer – but luckily Animal Control saw through the charade and lies of the complainant – THIS time. I was lucky.
I know that Calgary is always trotted out as the "template" du jour – but their definition of attack is "attack means an assault resulting in bleeding, bone breakage, sprains, serious bruising, or multiple injuries". That sound much more like an "attack" to me – than "gives the impression of threatening".