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Dog debate draws crowd
Opinions vary on what's need to control canine ownership in the city

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 17, 2013

Opinions abounded in the city of Yellowknife council chamber on Thursday afternoon where Yellowknifers gathered to share their thoughts on the proposed changes to Yellowknife's dog bylaw.

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Karla Cairns sticks her recommendations to a board describing possible changes to the city's dog bylaws at an open house at city hall on Thursday. - Lyndsay Herman/NNSL photo

The responses were as varied as the people in attendance and opinions were debated in deep conversations around the room. About 20 people attended the lunch hour discussion.

"Bylaw needs to be more strict," said local veterinarian Dr. Tom Pisz. "(The new by-law) needs to consider not just a maximum number of dogs, but the dogs' welfare and the peace of the people living nearby."

For Pisz, an ideal outcome would include an appointed body, whether it was made up of bylaw officers with special training or dog welfare professionals, to regularly inspect kennels.

He said he hears a lot of concern from people about how dogs are cared for at some kennels within Yellowknife's city limits.

With Yellowknife's strong dogsledding tradition, the city should have a higher standard than most and that standard should be set by professions who know dogs and not just by business owners, said Pisz.

Karla Cairns, who owns one dog herself, took issue with the suggestion that bylaw could ticket people for not carrying bags on them during a walk with their dogs.

"You can't legislate against stupidity," said Cairns. "What are they going to do, set up check stops? Are they going to stop everyone out for a walk with their dog? It's unenforceable and silly."

She said she did not support a limit on the number of dogs a person could own and she hoped the new by-law would realize that people who may have many dogs on their property are not necessarily raising a dog team.

She used the example of a dog daycare, which may mean five dogs are at a home for the day and then return to their respective homes around 5 p.m.

"The world has changed," said Cairns. "Yellowknife has changed."

Five boards were set up in city hall council chambers for the meeting, with two proposed changes to the bylaw summarized in plain language on each board.

Attendees to the 90-minute event were invited to post their opinions via yellow note paper below the applicable summary.

City staff was on hand to answer questions and the city's online survey regarding the proposed dog limit was available on four computers.

People were also informed they could still give a formal presentation to city council on any suggestions or concerns about the new bylaw.

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  • People walking dogs on public property must carry bags for picking up feces.
  • Dog abuse and neglect is more clearly defined, as well as bylaw officers' powers to deal with complaints relating to abuse and neglect.
  • Dogs will need to be secured while being transported outside of a motor vehicle.
  • Owners of dogs considered vicious must muzzle their dogs while in public.
  • Specific penalties are set for each offence with a maximum of $2,500, which is in line with the NWT Dog Act.
  • New sections outline requirements for kennels and dog teams
  • The new bylaw would further define when barking is a nuisance
  • Limiting the number of dogs a person can own is under consideration but was not recommended by city administration when these changes were introduced to city council.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of proposed changes to the dog bylaw.

Source: City of Yellowknife

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