Thursday, October 30, 2008

A letter to Mayor Peter Kelly about bylaw A300

So I said that last week a few people met with Mayor Peter Kelly about bylaw A300. Today we sent off a letter to him because he said that the proper protocol was to send him a formal letter requesting him to do something and he'd forward it off to the correct departemnt and his staff would send back a report and he'd report back to him. So that is what we did - and here's the letter we sent -

Mayor Peter Kelly
1841 Argyle St.
PO Box 1749
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 3A5

October 30, 2008

Re meeting of October 22, 2008 regarding bylaw A300

Dear Mr. Kelly:

We would like to thank you for meeting with us and our associates on the morning of October 22, 2008 with our concerns about bylaw A300 as it’s currently written regarding what constitutes a dangerous dog and the definition of “threatening”. As discussed in our meeting we are enclosing the changes that we feel are appropriate to Bylaw A300.

In a staff report published after the public hearings on bylaw A300 last September, your Municipal Solicitor had recommend the following about the section on the definition of “threatening” and dog attack:

i). the definitions of both “bite” and “threatens” be deleted leaving the courts to assess whether within common parlance the animal has bitten or threatened the victim;
ii) the words “without provocation” be removed from “attack” definition consistent with the Calgary Bylaw; and
iii) remove the reference to “chase” leaving the courts to decide whether a threat exists as a result of a chase event.

All of those sections were left in – and Animal Control Services were allowed to determine the level of punishment that dog owners would face – up to and including the destruction of the dog. We would like it if the solicitor's recommendations would be addressed again.

What we would like to see discussed about with bylaw A300

1. Remove all reference to the term “threatening” because as defined a “threatening appearance” carries the same weight as a full attack that causes injury. A dog’s appearance alone should never be the judge of whether they are dangerous,
2. Remove section 2 (a),(b),(c),(d) and replace it with legislation that only allows a Justice of the Court to order the euthanization of a seized dog,
3. Add a provision so that there is a strict time limit when seized dogs are impounded and a court date is imposed so that undue trauma is not inflicted on the dog or the dog owner;
4. Issuing muzzle orders, notice to microchip dogs, or fines for failing to register a dog shouldn’t be part of the bylaw – they should be part of the Animal Control Officer’s guidelines/regulations and they should be able to issue them like they do fines.
5. You can go to court to dispute a parking ticket – but under bylaw A300 curently – you cannot automatically go to court to dispute the destruction of your dog – we would like a change implemented that will allow an accused dog owner a court appearance without having to file suit, which is currently the only recourse.
6. Animal Control Officers should be able to apply to have a dog deemed dangerous or vicious – but they should not be able to deem them such themselves. It is our opinion that only a judge – who uses material supplied to him by a veterinarian, a behaviorist, and others – should make that decision.

We are attaching model bylaws and actual bylaws from other jurisdictions in Canada and from organizations like the Canadian Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the National Companion Animal Coalition. We are also attaching an addendum showing which sections of these attachments we think have good sections that would work for Bylaw A300.

It is our belief that currently Bylaw A300 as it’s written puts every dog in danger in the Halifax Regional Municipality that looks a certain way – any dog can “appear threatening” to someone who is afraid of dogs or has a low tolerance for dogs – and under the bylaw as it’s currently written – that can constitute an attack. So when the call to Animal Control is made – whoever has the better story – the complainant or the defendant – is who the Animal Control Officer is going to believe – because when a “threatening” charge is made – there doesn’t have to be any physical evidence. This is very dangerous waters to be treading.

We are only three (3) people who are writing this letter – but by the HRM’s own estimates – there are anywhere from 46,500 to 93,017 dogs – and 46% of households own dogs in the HRM – that is a significant population of taxpayers who’s voice should be heard, and they are all worried about this issue.

Thank you for your time.


Linda Koekman
Joan Sinden
Marc Boutilier

We also sent some attachments, and I sent some explanations of the attachmemnts and this is what I sent:

Attachments to Letter To Mayor Peter Kelly regarding proposed changes to Bylaw A300

1. An Enlightened Approach to Companion Animal Control for Canadian Municipalities – from the National Companion Animal Coalition:

The section that we think is important is under Section E – dangerous dogs where it talks about establishing what a dangerous dog actually is and one of the things it suggests saying is - “a dog that has shown the disposition or tendency to be threatening or aggressive” – this is a much better definition than what the HRM currently uses in it’s dangerous dog definition: “threatens any human being or animal”

2. Regional District of Central Okanagan Bylaw No 366:

We like this bylaw because the wording makes it very obvious that it’s the owner who’s at fault, and not the dog when a violation occurs – such as in section 2 when it reads: “Dangerous Dog means any dog that has been the subject of an owner’s conviction of an offence against Section 17.3 or 17.4 of this bylaw”

3. Canadian Association of Pet Dog Trainers – Proposed Dangerous Dogs Act:

Has several sections in it that are very good.

Article 2 (section 121) Talks about the “Judicial process” and how Animal Control Officers can petition the court to have an animal declared potentially dangerous or vicious – Animal Control Officers cannot do that themselves as they currently can here in the HRM. (section 122) talks about how strict time limits have to be imposed on that judicial process so that – like what has happened here in the HRM – dogs don’t languish in the pound, egregious amounts of money and personnel aren’t wasted, and public relation disasters don’t happen when cases are tried in the public.

Article 3 gives a sliding scale of aggression – with a location relevance (ie whether the incident happened on the dog’s home property or in a public place), and a situation relevance – whether they attacked a small animal, up to killing a child.


  1. Anonymous10:52 AM

    You have certainly done your homework.Good Luck.Also your 3rd link doesn't work.Calgary,from what I have read has one of the most progressive animal control departments not only in Canada but also in the US.They also have a lot of money. Whether this a reason why other juisdictions don't follow suit I am not sure.RG

  2. Thanks RG - I corrected that link that didn't work, so it should be okay now.

    I actually don't like the Calgary bylaw too much, I find it very restrictive - basically if your dog pees sideways 2 feet too far off the left - you can be fined for that. The bylaw is so restrictive it's not even funny - when you actually sit down and read it and think about living under the rules and law that it imposes upon you - I wouldn't personally want to live under that kind of tyranny.