Pet owners optimistic about dog control service suggestions

The Regional District hopes to begin implementing changes to its dog control service within the next year.

Protestors stand outside Kelowna City Hall Monday evening

Several residents and protestors who came into City Hall frustrated with the Regional District’s dog control service left feeling slightly more optimistic Monday night.

The Regional District board meeting was moved to council chambers to accommodate approximately 50 residents who were interested in hearing a review of the dog control service.

Allan Neilson, a consultant with Neilson-Welch, told board members the current service aims to increase the safety and protection of the public from the negative impacts caused by dogs.

He suggested the improved service should feature more goals alongside public safety, including a focus to increase dog licenses sold each year, increase levels of cost recovery, develop a stronger relationship with the dog owner community and develop a common philosophy among staff regarding dog control.

“We need to, in my view, have a very clear statement that dogs are part of this community,” said Neilson.

“Dogs have intrinsic value in the community, dogs have the potential to add value to the families that they’re part of, to the neighbourhoods they belong to, to the broader community.”

The report is modeled after other cities’ dog control services such as Calgary and Auckland, New Zealand.

Neilson said currently only one-third of dogs are licensed in the Central Okanagan.

Dog licensing accounts for a significant portion of cost recovery; therefore, he said the Regional District needs to impose rewards for owners who license their dogs and punishments for owners of dogs who are found to not have a license.

The hot button issue for many was how the Regional District will deal with aggressive dogs.

The report recommends retaining two tiers of dog aggression: Dangerous dogs and aggressive dogs, and adopting a three-strike policy to deal with repeat offender aggressive dogs.

Volunteers are also key to the success of the dog control service, said Neilson.

Their jobs would include assisting with the care of impounded dogs, the development of educational programs and working as dog service ambassadors to engage and educate dog owners in public parks.

Peter and Jennifer Madsen sat in the front row of City Hall Monday night.

The Madsens own Shadow, an Alaskan malamute that was impounded at the Regional District’s dog control kennel for 15 months.

Peter said the report was a “step in the right direction.”

“I agree with a lot of the stuff they said,” said Peter.

He added that certain provisions within this report would have prevented he and his wife from going through “15 months of hell.”

“We would’ve saved a ton of money and emotional distress and the RDCO would’ve saved a ton of money and bad publicity.”

Others felt the report fell short of ensuring public safety.

Tamie Williams wore a shirt with a picture of her son’s face Monday night. It read: Regulate the breed, help prevent the deed.

Her son, Zach, was bitten on the cheek by a pit bull last year. Forty stitches were required to close the wound.

“I think one of the biggest points for me that really needs to be worked on is the three strikes in regard to an aggressive dog. The dog that attacked my son had an aggressive designation and attacked my son to the point where he could have very well killed him,” said Williams.

“I don’t believe that a dog, under any circumstance, should have a chance to bite. It shouldn’t be tolerated in our society.”

The Regional Board directed staff to provide it with an implementation plan including opportunity for public comment with the goal of rolling out changes within the next year.