City ponders tough stand on dog licences

Friday, April 30th, 2004

Report recommends increasing budget for animal-control services

Frances Bula

VANCOUVER Vancouver is about to embark on a new program to require dog owners to buy licences for their pets.

The city also plans to increase penalties for mistreatment or lack of control, and to educate people about responsible dog ownership.

The new program will include such measures as having police officers accompany animal-control officers at parks and beaches, starting this summer, so they can require owners to produce identification and fine them if their dogs don’t have a licence.

All of the new plans, going to council for approval next Thursday, are the result of a changing Vancouver dog world.

The dog population is soaring, along with the human population. More people see their dogs as part of the family, which means they believe they should have the right to go everywhere with them. And more people in apartments are buying dogs, which increases the demand for public space.

The downside of all that has been more attacks by vicious dogs, more complaints from people about dogs in public spaces, and more complaints about how people treat their dogs.

“We feel we’ve done a great job so far. Now we need to take that next step,” said the city’s chief licence inspector, Paul Teichroeb.

The report going to council recommends increasing the budget for animal-control services to $1.7 million, from the current $1 million, over the next six years.

It paints an ominous picture of what could happen if Vancouver doesn’t improve its animal-control services.

“The status quo could lead to more people and dogs being injured, an erosion in residents’ sense of security, an escalation in conflict between dog owners and non-dog owners [and] and greater sense of entitlement for bylaw violators.”

The biggest chunk of the budget, about $200,000, would go to hiring four more animal-control officers to add to the nine currently working.

It’s hoped the city can cover part of the extra costs by bringing in extra money from licences. In 2002, it issued only 15,750 dog licences, which is conservatively estimated as representing only a third of the dogs in Vancouver. A recent poll indicated the total population is about 44,000, although figures on dog-to-human ratios elsewhere indicate the number could be as high as 56,000.

Licences are $34 for spayed and neutered dogs, $54 for those that aren’t.

Teichroeb said there’s no plan to increase the licence fees. He just wants all dog owners to buy a licence. If the city could achieve even 80-per-cent compliance from 44,000 dog owners, it would bring in an additional $675,000.

In Calgary, 90,000 dogs are licensed, which is estimated to be 92 per cent of the population.

Teichroeb said there is also a plan to rebuild the city’s animal shelter at some point. Vancouver‘s shelter already had to be expanded recently, from 32 kennels to 48, because of the “no kill” policy it adopted.

But it still doesn’t have the kind of space it needs to make sure the dogs get lots of exercise and for the 200 volunteers who come down to work with them.

Teichroeb said the plan is going to go out to the public for feedback on this often controversial issue.

Margaret Newton of the Vancouver Dog Owners Association said the group hasn’t had a chance to see the plan, but is looking forward to responding to it at the public sessions.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

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