The City of Vernon’s dog control officer had some interesting revelations to council about what she can and can’t enforce. (Black Press - file photo)

Okanagan city’s dog control rules somewhat muddy

Hired contractor explains to Vernon council what she can and can’t enforce when it comes to dogs

One Vernon councillor’s ears perked up over conversation on dog control.

Kari Gares was responding to a comment made from delegation representative Pat Ellis of K9 Dog Control, who represents the Regional District of North Okanagan for dog control, which includes the City of Vernon.

Ellis, saying it’s the first time she’s been allowed to talk to the City of Vernon since she started in 2004, told council she and her staff of five do not have the authority to enforce on-leash, off-leash rules in Vernon parks because it’s a city bylaw, not a regional district bylaw.

“We can’t enforce parks bylaws because we have not been appointed city bylaw officers,” said Ellis. “I spoke on this two or three years ago with the parks department and they said yes, definitely, we would be appointed parks bylaw officers. That never did happen. We only enforce RDNO bylaws in parks but I understand that’s going to change.”

READ ALSO: Fees and fines jump for dog control in Salmon Arm

The City of Vernon took over the parks function from RDNO on Jan. 1.

After Ellis’ presentation – as a delegation, council can only ask questions, they can’t make any decisions or have discussions on the delegation until the next regular meeting – Gares asked during council inquiries for clarity on K9 Dog Control’s role in the city.

READ ALSO: Dog control ramping up on Okanagan Rail Trail

“Two weeks ago, I asked how many times we have ticketed those in city parks that are off-leash, and I was told it’s a dog control issue. Can I get some clarity on that?” asked Gares. “Is it true that our dog control has no ability to enforce those bylaws?”

Geoff Gaucher, City of Vernon manager of protective services, said K9 Dog Control typically tickets dog owners under the RDNO bylaw as shared dog control for the entire region.

“I wasn’t aware that they weren’t able to ticket under our bylaw,” said Gaucher. “I don’t know how the contract with RDNO operates so I’ll have to make some inquiries and report back.”

Ellis said her office is open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and there is a 24-hour emergency service.

Most of the complaints or call-outs, she said, are on a written complaint basis only.

“If we get a complaint, we’re usually there within that day,” she said. “We can give tickets and we can give warnings.”

What she and her staff can’t do is take dogs out of people’s yards unless she has a warrant to do so or the dog is deemed a danger to public safety.

The services also does not deal with cruelty.

“We’ve been instructed by the head office of the SPCA to mind our own business,” said Ellis. “People are wanting us to deal with dogs in hot cards or dogs that are tied up but my staff are not considered special constables and special constables are the only ones that can enforce SPCA and cruelty bylaws.”

If you haven’t got a license for your pooch, you should. K9 Dog Control has zero tolerance for no dog licenses.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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