Trail sniffing out solutions to dog bylaw

Trail Counillor asked council to consider updating the city’s breed-specific animal bylaw that lumps pitbulls into its vicious dog category

A pitbull’s reputation has more bark than bite, a Trail councillor argued at a city council meeting Monday night.

Councillor Sean Mackinlay asked his colleagues to consider updating the city’s breed-specific animal bylaw that lumps pitbulls into its vicious dog category and come up with an amendment that puts the responsibility on pet owners.

“The onus should be on the pet owner to maintain control of their animal, have proper training and to ensure the pet is not being treated poorly,” he said.

City council agreed to have staff revisit this bylaw that was enacted in 1999 and in consultation with the SPCA come back with information and perhaps even a recommendation.

All but councillor Rick Georgetti voted in favour of this motion.

“You got to look at what they were bred for, they were bred to herd bulls and fight bears and when they clamp down on somebody they’re not going to release,” he said.

“I believe we’ve done it right, they should be classified as a vicious animal and if people wish to have them, then so be it.

“But they should pay a little bit more because the consequences if they attack somebody are going to be very serious.”

The city’s bylaw currently puts additional requirements on pitbull owners like ensuring their pet is muzzled off their property.

It costs $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.

Last year, the city sold 158 dog licenses but none for pitbull terriers, which by definition include the American Pitbull Terrier, Pitbull Terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, or dogs of the following mixed breeds.

Licensing fees collected go into the city’s general revenues fund and in a very small way help to offset the annual cost the city pays towards the SPCA contract, through the regional district, for dog control services.

Sarah Fulcher, owner of Barks and Recreation Pet Services in downtown Trail, said putting additional cost on this breed only discourages people from getting their dog licensed.

She and fellow animal advocate Michelle Davis would like the city to implement a responsible owner bylaw, instead.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s not necessarily any particular breed that’s more aggressive or dangerous,” said Fulcher. “I’ve been working with dogs for 10 years in aggression and I don’t think I’ve ever really met a pitbull that was aggressive to people. I’ve had a few that are not so great with dogs but are easily trainable.”

Councillor Gord DeRosa, who recalls when the bylaw was adopted, agreed it’s about time the city look into it.

“We were a bit under the gun and so was half of Canada because there was a lot of attacks at that point in time by pitbulls,” he said.