North Cowichan’s new rules for aggressive dogs have some real bite. (File photo)

North Cowichan adopts new rules for aggressive dogs

Dogs must have liability insurance, among other requirements

The new rules for aggressive dogs in North Cowichan have some real bite.

North Cowichan’s council decided in March to ban breed-specific legislation from its new and updated animal responsibly bylaw, but the owners of dogs deemed to be aggressive, regardless of breed, and their animals will face severe consequences for that designation.

Requirements such as liability insurance, constant monitoring, mandatory spaying and neutering and warning signs wherever the animals are kept will be part of the municipality’s new rules regarding aggressive dogs.

Licensing and impounding fees are also now much higher for aggressive dogs.

Council gave the final reading to the new bylaw at its meeting on May 1.

In response to cases of animal cruelty recently in the Cowichan Valley, North Cowichan’s council passed a motion earlier this year directing staff to provide a report on recommended changes to the municipality’s Animal Control Bylaw to establish animal care standards for the first time.

The proposed new bylaw deals with a wide range of animal concerns, including aggressive dogs, animal cruelty, basic animal requirements, animals in motorized vehicles and even feeding wildlife.

“The new Animal Responsibility Bylaw is a step forward for the well-being of animals in our communities,” said Mayor Al Siebring.

“This bylaw makes the responsibilities of pet owners more clear and provides better mechanisms for addressing harmful behaviour.

Generally speaking, under the new rules, a dog in the municipality will be deemed aggressive by North Cowichan’s pound keeper if it has caused, or could cause, harm to a person or another animal.

The owner must then apply for an aggressive-dog licence within 14 days of receiving the notice that the dog has been deemed aggressive, and the application must include written confirmation from a veterinarian that the animal has been neutered or spayed and proof that the dog has some form of permanent identification.

As well, the dog’s owner must have liability insurance, in the minimum amount of $1 million, for any injuries which may be caused by the dog.

Regular licences for dogs are $35 a year, but it’s $100 for aggressive dogs; while the first impound fee for a licensed dog is $100, compared to $200 for an aggressive dog.

Every owner of an aggressive dog must also keep the animal muzzled when not on the owner’s property, and post a clearly visible sign at all points of entry onto any premises where the dog is being kept, either temporarily or permanently.

An owner of an aggressive dog also must not allow the animal to be on any school grounds, or within 30 metres of any playground apparatus.

Within one week of moving the dog to a new residence, whether sold or given away, the owner must provide the pound keeper with the new address where the dog will be kept.

The owner must also provide the pound keeper with a certificate of death from a veterinarian within a week of the death of the dog.

The dog’s owner may, within 14 calendar days of receipt of notice that their dog is being deemed as aggressive, request in writing to North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services that the municipality reconsider the decision.

The municipality will then hold a hearing in which the owner and the pound keeper can make representations, and then the bylaw manager will decide if the designation should be repealed or amended.

As well, if the municipality has received no further complaints about the dog during the two-year period after it has been designated as aggressive, and the owner and dog have successfully completed a course to address the dog’s aggressive behaviour, the owner may apply to have the aggressive designation removed.

However, if the dog displays aggressive behaviour again after the designation has been removed, the animal will be labelled as aggressive in perpetuity.

“We are pleased that the Municipality of North Cowichan has updated its animal responsibility bylaw,” said SPCA senior animal protection and outreach officer Erika Paul.

“These changes promote responsible pet guardianship and will help prevent animal cruelty.”

Animal bylaw fast facts

• All dogs more than four months old are mandated to be licensed annually.

• No person shall keep more than three dogs over the age of eight weeks.

• When in public, other than off-leash areas, dogs must be on a leash at all times and under the control of a competent person.

• Outdoor cats must be spayed or neutered.

• No person shall keep more than five cats over the age of 12 weeks.

• No person may feed or leave food out for an ownerless cat, unless registered with an approved organization.

• An animal may not be kept tethered to a fixed object for longer than two hours within a 24-hour period.

• An animal may not be kept outside unless it is provided with appropriate shelter.

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