It was suggested to me that responsible dog owners shouldn't have to worry about the changes that have been made to the dog bylaw here in the HRM - that if we take our dog ownership seriously, and do things correctly - we aren't going to get into trouble because the laws as they are written will not bring us into conflict with Animal Control.
I have to wholeheartedly disagree with that statement - it's responsible dog owners who have to worry about the new bylaw the most, because we are the ones who actually try to follow the rules, and it is irresonsible dogowners who don't care about any rules at all and just continue to do what they want - so the new bylaw isn't going to affect their lives whatsoever.
If you are like me I have more than one dog - I've got five dogs - all rescue dogs - so that's five dogs worth of barking - I have never let them bark for more than 20 minutes at a time - I don't even let them bark for 5 minutes - but there have been times when they've needed to go out at 2 in the morning to pee and poop - and sometimes during those times they pee.
According to the new bylaw and people's comments about it - that's why the bylaw was changed - because people are pissed off that dog owners let their dogs pee at certain times of the day - not for 20 minutes necessarily - but it's a hassle for the neighbours to be woken up.
A person on facebook - who believed she had all the anwers said "there were complaints such as dogs that were let out at 5 am *every* morning and barked – but because it was only for 15 minutes each time, there was no violation. There were dogs that barked early in the morning and late at night but because it was less than 20 minutes at a time (even if the time in between barking was only 5 minutes so the dog was actually barking most of the time) there was nothing that could be done."
Things like this should be handled on a neighbour to neighbour basis - the dog owner probably doesn't realize he's being a nuisance
So now I have to not let my dogs out to pee in the middle of the night anymore for fear of people contacted by Animal Control? Because I'm a responsible dog owner and I don't want any negative interactions with animal control.
There are other dog bylaws across Nova Scotia that have better legislation regarding barking that I think would work better than what the HRM just passed. Amherst - just in November 2015 released a new "Companion Animal Bylaw" - and what they say about barking is -
7. No dog shall be permitted to consistently disturb the quiet of a neighborhood by barking, howling, or otherwise making noise to a degree beyond what the Animal Control Officer determines to be normal.
7.1 In determining what is “normal” in the context of this section, the ACO shall consider one or more, but not limited too, the following factors:
a) the time of day that the dog is reported as disruptive;
b) the frequency and duration of the reported disruptive behavior;
c) the proximity of neighbors and population density of the neighborhood.
7.2 If the ACO determines, upon reasonable grounds, that a dog is being disruptive, as defined in this section, the ACO shall give a written warning to the dog owner before taking any other action under this by-law.
This sounds much better than the threatening legislation than the HRM passed.
I had a couple more thoughts on the HRM's ability to destroy on sight an animal -
This morning my Councillor sent me a comparison of what was in A300 and what has been changed in A700
Powers of Animal Control Officer
14 (2) 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.
Powers of a Peace Officer
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.
So, what has changed?
#1 is that it's changed from an "animal control officer" to a "peace officer". A peace officer as stated in the bylaw is - "“Peace Officer” means a police officer, by-law enforcement officer or a special constable appointed pursuant to the Police Act, S.N.S. 2004, c.31;
I think the only one of those noted that carries a gun is a police officer - so my next question is - and one I would question because in the previous A300 animal control officers could also "may immediately without notice to the owner, destroy the animal in a humane way" - and my question is - how are the animal control officers humanely killing dogs without using a gun?
What is the method they are using?
The next thing is about the running at large - and the part about how a dog being leashed and tethered to you could still be charged with running at large - even though he's really not because he is leashed to you.
It turns out that the city didn't have any way to charge these people who had dogs that were jumping on people and being rude - so they created this section just for that - so in other words - all of these new additions and changes were made in a completely reactionary way.
They weren't made to improve the lives of dogs and their humans and to make a better city for dogs, their owners and the city at large - it was simply to create more laws so that they could people for specific things that they've been having trouble with.
I'm not a lawyer or a rocket scientist, but in my education on these things in the last 15 years, I don't think that's the way you write good legislation.
Another thing is about the new leash law and how it can't be any more than 3 metres or 10 feet. a lot of people use "long leads" or "drag leads" when they are training their dogs - and this will no longer be allowed - they are using it for the safety of their dogs - so that if the dog starts to look like he's going to run - they can step on the lead and catch the dog - it's a vital tool that is now no longer available.
There has been a culture at city hall for many years - as long as I've been involved with dog politics - and that's almost 15 years - that there is no wish for public consultation - it's only staff who make policy, and the policy that they write rarely is positive for dogs and dog owners - it's always a losing situation for us. We have done nothing but lose services in the last 15 years, and that is a shame because we are an exploding community - I wish they'd come to their senses and stop trying to make us disappear and start giving us the services we so desperately need and deserve because after all - we pay the same taxes as everyone else.
To end off - I'm thinking about moving to East Hants, it's not that far from Halifax, and they have a much better bylaw than us.