Sunday, June 29, 2008

Town of New Tecumseth bites in the canine bylaw department

Monday's New Tecumseth town council meeting brought disappointment to many who worked long and hard to bring common sense to the table, where the canine control bylaw was concerned.
The canine control bylaw had amendments proposed over a year ago by a town appointed working group consisting of an unusual cast of characters. There appears to be an hidden agenda, but it isn't quite clear what that agenda may be? The reason I suggest a hidden agenda, is when common sense input was put forth, it was turned down harshly for restrictive measures that impose punishment to dog owners who mind their own business, as opposed to the 1 - 2% that actually cause a problem. It is worth mentioning the exact same wording showed up at simultaneously in many communities from coast to coast in Canada. All other jurisdictions, that I know of, voted down the amendments, but not New Tecumseth.
In a nutshell, what was passed at the council meeting was, a limit of 3 dogs per household urban, 5 dog per household rural. There is a $500.00 per year license fee for owners who find they get caught with over the limit number of dogs not previously tagged. Potential business owners requiring a kennel license must own a 5 acre minimum of land to get a 'kennel license'. There are no stipulations whether you are breeding, training, boarding etc. There is no stipulation how many litters you produce per year or any other clear definitions in the bylaw. In fact it will be legal to breed as many litters as possible from 3 females that are say Great Danes, (in the middle of a subdivision) but you will not be able to breed one litter per year, or less from 4 Yorkshire Terriers without buying 5 acres of land! 
There is currently a 21% tag compliance (guesstimate based on population). That means nearly 80% of dog owners in New Tecumseth have not tagged their dogs. Call me silly, but of those 80% I doubt there will be a massive lineup at the town hall looking to purchase their tags by Aug 31. I guess the animal control department will be on the warpath as of Sept 1 to seek and/or destroy all dogs who dare be the 4th urban or 6th rural dog. After all, it is better to be expensive or dead than Dog forbid be a higher number than the town thinks dog owners can own. Doesn't say much for the idiot owners of one dog, does it?
I thought about giving the council of New Tecumseth the tin pot award however; no need to take this as a compliment, but there are many municipalities that are far more deserving than New Tecumseth.

tin-pot Definition

tin·-pot (tin′pät′)
Informal of little importance or value; insignificant, petty, inferior, etc. a tin-pot dictator

The band-o-monkeys who pushed for this bylaw amendment dragged in an OSPCA investigator. Mindy Hall, decked out in a bullet proof vest, spoke at the council meeting. With the puppy mill static board as a prop, she explained how limiting numbers of pets would aid the OSPCA in busting puppy mills. She was asked how limiting numbers of pets would aid in shutting down puppy mills, but there was no clear answer how. She was asked by another councillor if it mattered if there were a limit of 3 or say 10? Her reply was "no". Hmmmm
Footnote from the OSPCA:

A word about the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ontario SPCA):Protecting animals since 1873, the Ontario SPCA is a registered charity comprised of 27 branches and 31 affiliated humane societies and SPCAs. Under the OSPCA Act, Ontario SPCA investigators have the same powers as police officers when enforcing animal cruelty laws. The Society’s concern is ensuring the welfare of all animals – large and small, wild and domesticated – through cruelty investigations, animal care and rehabilitation, government and industry advocacy, and public education.
Charitable Business Number 88969-1044-RR0002

In an excerpt from the OSPCA website about pet limits:

  • Limit the number of pets allowed and encourage pet owners to sterilize their pets. The City of North Vancouver, for example, has by-laws making it mandatory for pet owners to sterilize their cats. Failure to comply can result in a fine of up to $2000. Many municipalities with animal control by-laws, including the City of Toronto, encourage sterilization by offering reduced licensing fees for sterilized animals.

  • The OSPCA website has a complete page dedicated about how to lobby the government.
    Number 1 on their to do list for lobbying is:
    1. Research the issue using all available resources. Request information (fact sheets, articles, news releases) from animal protection groups, such as the Ontario SCPA, World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The more facts and arguments you're aware of, the more effective you'll be.
    OK, let me get this straight, first on the list is align yourself with AR?
    The Ontario Fiberals received an award from WSPA in December of last year. That tells you how smart they (WSPA) are right there. Sorry, off on a tangent..
    Go ahead, search WSPA, IFAW, not listed HSUS, PETA.. I guarantee you will find overlap of characters with all the groups listed. Overlap of activities too. I just did a quick search on the IFAW site and was reading an old news post from hurricane Katrina. They were referring to how they and the HSUS were rescuing an old lady and her dogs.. There was an investigation into the millions of donated dollars HSUS received for hurricane Katrina.
    Another note that should have you alarmed, the Fib's passed amendments to the OSPCA Act several weeks ago giving them police powers and warrantless entry. Pretty hefty power given to a private charity! Given to an organization not governed or overseen by any public governing body. They are exempt from Access to Information legislation because they are private.
    Excerpts from the act:
    11. (1) For the purposes of the enforcement of this or any other act or law in force in Ontario pertaining to the welfare of or the prevention of cruelty to animals, every inspector and agent of the Society has and may exercise any of the powers of a police officer.
    R.S.O. 1990, c. O.36, s. 11 (1).
    Entry without warrant
    (2) Where an inspector or agent of the Society observes an animal in immediate distress, he or she may enter without a warrant any premises, building or place, other than a dwelling place, either alone or accompanied by one or more veterinarians or other persons as he or she considers advisable, for the purposes of subsections (3) and (5) and sections 13 and 14. 2006, c. 19, Sched. F, s. 1 (2
    Authority to enter building or place, etc.
    (6) Where an order made under subsection (1) remains in force, an inspector or an agent of the Society may, for the purpose of determining whether the order has been complied with, enter without a warrant any building or place in which the animal is located and inspect the animal and the building or place where the animal is kept and if, in his or her opinion, the order has been complied with, he or she shall revoke the order by notice in writing served forthwith upon the owner or custodian in the manner prescribed for service of an order in subsection (3). R.S.O. 1990, c. O.36, s. 13 (6).
    Now, explain to me again why the OSPCA would need to drive all the way out to tin pot towns to meddle in their bylaws where pet limits are concerned? The question that comes to my mind is, have you ever heard of setting up the stage for mandatory s/n? They got away with it once, waltzing in, recommending their own agenda and council bought into it hook line and sinker.
    Which leads me to another point. The public meeting date was set 3 weeks after council sent the bylaw to public meeting. What I mean is, the bylaw amendments were first heard by council June 2. A petition with 350 signatures was handed in at this meeting and 4 presentations from people in the community were heard by council. Council agreed the matter needed to go to public meeting, which means anyone may speak to council with information, suggestions etc. to consider. The kicker was, the bylaw (as is with limits and acreage restrictions) was included in the agenda for the council meeting which immediately followed the public meeting! Why bother with public input? Would this not suggest minds were made up before those who spoke at the public meeting wasted their breath? There were some good questions raised and asked of the OSPCA person. Council went ahead and passed the bylaw with pet limits, 500.00 fines for over limit dogs and land restrictions for business. My own councillor said quite plainly, she was convinced pet limits and restrictions were not the way to go until the OSPCA person told her pet limits will help shut down puppy mills. Her explained that if this helps shut down even one puppy mill, it will be worth people forfeiting their right to own more than 3 or 5 dogs!
    The fact that this bylaw passed didn't really surprise me. Honestly, I wasn't really bothered by the content because I have little to no faith that the animal services department has any hope in hell of taking control of enforcement over the next few years. What has been lacking all along is enforcement of existing laws (21% tag compliance). The town finally implemented a data collection which they supplied the numbers for nearly the last year. The data collection started in July of last year. I have attached a copy of the data, such as it is. We certainly don't have a major problem with dogs here in New Tecumseth, which is a good thing cause we would be going to the dogs if this was the plan of attack.. no pun intended. There are currently an estimated 6027 dogs in New Tecumseth.
    What really does scare me is the fact that numerous people from the community presented really great, effective alternatives to setting limits and acreage restrictions. I, as well as others presented the Calgary model and spelled out for them how they could incorporate it to fit an urban/rural area such as New Tecumseth.
    It is also an important note that New Tecumseth currently has 4 different bylaws for canine control. There is a bylaw for dangerous dogs, noise (barking), excrement and canine control. The sample bylaw similar to the Calgary bylaw, incorporated all 4 bylaws into one tidy package with clear definitons and no restrictions on numbers or acreage. One councillor who made his stance clear from the get go, complained about a constituent who had been terrorized by a neighbours dog/s over a long period of time. He described lunging, attacking and biting. Threatening on private property etc. These are all issues falling under the dangerous dog bylaw, which was not up for amendment. The only bylaw to change in this process was the canine control bylaw. The other 3 remained as is.
    In my opinion, the group appointed to bring this amendment to council (band-o-monkeys), which by the way consisted of the animal control officer, the person who has the pound contract, a volunteer from the humane society and the town clerk. The AC officer here works 15 hours a week and the pound is contracted out to a private kennel since we do not have a shelter or pound facility. The humane society here is an affiliate of the OSPCA and is completely volunteer and foster care. The little group who copied this bylaw (from wherever they dug it up) (which looks now like it may have originated from the OSPCA?) seemed to turn this whole charade into a pissing contest between us and them... In the meantime, the OSPCA pops their head in, mutters something about how we have ONE puppy mill here and setting pet limits will help shut down puppy mills, and wham bam thank you ma'am council buys into it.
    Now that is scary!
    So, the moral of this story is to inform you that for 14 months, myself and others in the community spoke out against this restrictive, ill thought out bylaw. I am not directly affected by this bylaw. I do not own more than the limit set nor do I have plans to. I do not own a canine related business or want to breed dogs. I have tagged my dogs with the town as long as I have had dogs.
    The council chambers was far from full. There were few people who showed up to speak out. It was well publicized in the local papers prior to council meetings. Of the letters to the paper, none agreed with the bylaw amendments (just thought that was worth mentioning too). Where were all the people who ARE affected by this? Silence is consent. I have heard from some people their thoughts on tags, bylaws, laws and enforcement.
    - tags are a money grab for the town. Why should I pay for tags?
    - enforcement is next to nil. I have never had anyone at the door or questioning me.. I'll take my chances.
    - I'll do whatever I want. Screw them.. (meaning enforcement officers)
    What I know for sure is;
    - those who are scofflaws will continue to do so no matter what laws or bylaws are passed.
    - Until enforcement happens, many people will continue to take their chances.
    - You cannot legislate responsibility.
    - Restrictions and limitations drive compliant people underground. A bylaw should consist of setting a community standard then getting compliance to that level.
    People generally have become self centered and complacent. That is the makings of waking up one day and there is no more dog ownership. Have you researched the agenda of animal rights groups? Do you think you know where the lines are drawn in the sand between what is animal rights and animal welfare. Animal protection or conservation. One issue is related to another is related to another. Mandatory spay/neuter is extinction. Breed bans are extinction. They all whittle away at dog owners rights and build strength in controlling animal populations but not in the way people think. Pet overpopulation is not proven. Why are we importing dogs from other countries. How many puppies do you see at shelters? People who work in shelters/rescue, cruelty investigative work and pounds see the worst of the worst. I don't blame them for becoming jaded. When all you see is the bad, it drives people to irrational thinking. Most people are pretty good pet owners, just like most parents are good parents. The dog business makes billions of dollars in everything from dog nutrition to dog apparel. Some people see dressing your dog up as cruel, but the point is people spend more on vet care, food and paraphernalia for their pets than ever before. Dogs are seen as part of the family. They live in people's houses with them, sleep with them, eat with them etc. Yes there are some people who abuse animals. Some because they are sick, some because they are not educated.
    Why is there a need to impose irrational restrictions on the huge majority of good pet owners in order to stop the bad owners? A point was made at the council meeting:
    One councillor to another "if you didn't drive so fast there wouldn't be a speed limit".
    Well, first of all, let's compare apples to apples. Would my responsible ownership of 4, 10 dogs, whatever number you like, somehow endanger your life? 

    If dogs are properly trained, contained and socialized. Given vet care and proper nutrition. If my dogs are not bothering anyone, why should the government on any level or anyone else be able to come into MY HOME and tell me how many, what breed, and what reproductive status my dogs should be?

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