Following a number of public comments, the City of Fernie is reviewing their dog licensing, regulating, and impounding bylaw.
The issue at hand is that owners of Pit Bulls, or dog breeds that are considered dangerous by the City, are required to pay a hefty licensing fee.
The current bylaw sets the fee at $15 for a neutered or spayed dog, and $35 for an unneutered or unspayed dog. However the bylaw states that the cost is $300 for the following breeds: ‘Pit Bull Terrier, Pit Bull, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or dogs commonly known as Pit Bulls or crossbreds thereof, or any other breed of dog that council may declare dangerous from time to time.’
The $300 is in addition to the standard licence fee and is to be paid to the City annually.
“There seems to be a lot of anger around dog owners who have those certain breeds,” commented Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano. “I understand that a lot of the owners of those different breeds don’t even bother to get a licence because it’s so much money.”
In addition to the higher licensing fee, according to the bylaw, the above listed breeds are also required to be ‘on leash and effectively muzzled’ at all times when the dog is in a public place.
“The idea behind licensing is to have some sort of control and regulations over dogs,” stated Councillor Phil Iddon. “At $300 it’s a disincentive to license your dog.
“It’s making people basically not conform with our licensing bylaws, and then we have no idea who these dogs are, and we have that much less ability to track their whereabouts.”
Mayor and council agreed that the $300 cost was likely stopping a number of Fernie residents from licensing their dogs. Giuliano commented, “Perhaps if we do reduce it and make it more palatable, we will be able to get a handle on who owns what dog.”
She added, “If somebody does get attacked, we’ll know who the dog belongs to.”
City staff will review the current dog licensing, regulating, and impounding bylaw and bring back recommendations to council. Mayor and council have suggested they look at the licensing fees and dog control regulations, as well as the possibility of a written contract for the owners of Pit Bulls and crossbreds.