Kneehill County council approved changes to its animal control bylaw addressing the ubiquitous urban chicken and regrettably necessary vicious dog definitions.
The amended bylaw was approved at the June 8 regular meeting of council.
Councillors heard a report from Debra Grosfield, manager protective services, who returned with the amended bylaw after several issues were raised at a previous council meeting.
Councillors spent much time discussing the definition of the term “vicious dog,” including how it applied to dogs running loose in hamlets as opposed to a guard or working dog.
“Following the May 12, 2021 council meeting and the feedback received, administration has proposed new amendments to the animal control bylaw as described below,” noted Grosfield in her agenda memo.
“There are two purposes in adopting a new animal control bylaw,” she stated. “The Land Use Bylaw (LUB) had hens added to it last year, and these changes should be reflected in the proposed Animal Control Bylaw 1840.
“(Also) there are some enforcement challenges with Bylaw 1714, the current animal control bylaw. The proposed bylaw does reflect legal opinion received.”
She noted in part four Licensing of Dogs and Vicious Dogs, the bylaw now contains a limit on the number of dogs allowed in a Kneehill County hamlet and the bylaw now clarifies the owner of a working dog is exempt from licensing provisions of this bylaw, unless the dog is deemed vicious by the county chief administrative officer (CAO) or designate.
Grosfield noted that including new provisions in the animal control bylaw regarding vicious dogs, the county now has the ability to act immediately in situations involving such an animal, in addition to what the court system may do.
Grosfield also pointed out the county contracts out certain animal control services as the municipal peace officers don’t have training in that area.
“We currently do not have any peace officer trained on animal control,” stated Grosfield.
“This training costs approximately $6,000 to $10,000 per officer. Thus, we currently have a contract with an outside agency to capture/impound. We also do not have an impoundment facility or vehicles that are set up for captures.
“Should council want this, we would need to complete research and add to the operating budget or future budget considerations.”
Coun. Glen Keiver stated the issue of a “vicious” dog can be tough to address unless it’s actually attacked someone.
He added that sometimes it’s obvious that a certain dog is vicious.
Grosfield noted that the bylaw includes a $100 fee for registering a vicious dog with the county.
When examining the proposed amended bylaw, Coun. Ken King noted it included the ability for a hamlet resident to own five dogs over the age of six months per property. King stated he felt that was too many.
Coun. Debbie Penner agreed with King, adding she thought three per residence was adequate, with Coun. Faye McGhee agreeing with that number.
Councillors agreed the proposed bylaw would include three dogs per hamlet residence, not five.
King asked staff if the animal control contractor was reliable. Grosfield answered the county has had a good experience with its animal control contractor. The contractor, from Red Deer, charges about $600 per pick up and handles the entire situation.
She added the county is required to do no work on such incidents.
King asked if the dog owner pays those fees, to which Grosfield answered, “Yes”.
Councillors unanimously passed all readings of the amended animal control bylaw to bring it into effect.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter