Two dog lovers call Trail’s animal bylaw archaic and plan on approaching the city on non breed-specific changes that wouldn’t penalize pitbull owners.
The city’s bylaw introduced in 1999 lumps pitbulls into its vicious dog category, regardless of the animal’s nature, which puts additional requirements on dog owners like ensuring their pet is muzzled off their property.
The bylaw further ostracizes the breed with a fee of $300 to license a pitbull terrier dog annually in Trail, while other dogs cost $25 with a veterinarian certificate noting the animal has been neutered or $100 if it hasn’t.
“There’s a lot of good pitbulls and my feeling is that when you charge people extra to license them, you’re just punishing the people who are going to be responsible and license their dogs,” said Sarah Fulcher, owner of Barks and Recreation Pet Services in downtown Trail.
Fulcher has been in communication with Trail resident Michelle Davis, a dog owner who is an advocate for bylaws that put responsibility on the owner.
Together the women are researching what other communities are doing in preparation to approach city council with recommendations.
“I don’t think any breed is more or less prone to aggression, it comes down to how you train your dog,” said Davis. “The City of Trail is losing out on a ton of money because people with pitbulls aren’t registering their dogs.”
Davis would know. She owns a staffy-mastiff cross named Jersey along with Boston, an Old English bulldog.
Davis initially registered Jersey for a number of years without question until she read the city’s bylaw extensively.
“Honestly I stopped registering her because I was so angry of how much money it was going to cost me to register her with the city because they classify her as a vicious dog even though she’s done nothing,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a slap in the face.”
The city arrived at its current bylaw after consulting with the BC SPCA over a decade ago and it would look for the same advice now should a formal request come forward, explained city administrator Michelle McIsaac.
Nowadays, the non-profit organization is opposed to breed banning as a strategy for addressing incidents of aggression and the reduction of dog bites.
“I personally disagree with it, breed-specific bylaws don’t help with the situation,” said Trail SPCA branch manager Danielle Jackman.
She’s thought about asking the city to amend its pitbull-specific section but feared her request would have a reverse effect and instead the city would consider adding other breeds to its vicious definition.
Trail is not the only community that still has a breed-specific bylaw. In fact, Castlegar council decided to take a second look at it’s dog-licensing bylaw that imposes a $1,000 annual fee on owners of pitbulls and Staffordshire terriers but it remains in effect.
Davis would like Trail to take a hard look at what cities like Calgary or Delta have in place, where a responsible pet ownership bylaw is taken on.
“I have no problem with people being held responsible and accountable for their dog’s actions,” she said. “But it could be a German Shepherd, Chihuahua, poodle or Jack Russell and it could be a pitbull – I’m not going to deny that there’s not bad pitbulls out there – there are but there are bad Chihuahuas, too.”
Davis is following Cheri DiNova, New Democrat MPP for Parkdale-High Park, Ont., who is pressuring the government to remove all aspects of breed-specific legislation in Ontario. Of her many online communities, she’s part of this Facebook group with over 7,000 fans who support responsible legislation that holds irresponsible owners adequately accountable for their dogs’ actions.
She said the bad reputation carried has moved through the breeds over the years – from the Doberman to the rottweiler and now the pibull.
“They became the thug choice and when people wanted a big and strong mean dog, they got a pitbull,” she said. “They made it that way, they aren’t born that way.”
Much like her dog’s loving personality, Davis believes a dog can be shaped into a wonderful pet with the right amount of attention to its breed needs, socialization and training.