A Royal City resident is seeking equality for all breeds of dogs.
April Fahr, a director with the HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society, has asked the city to amend its animal control bylaw and remove references to specific breeds as being vicious. An attachment to the city's bylaw lists 10 breeds of dogs as vicious, regardless of the personality of the individual animal.
"They could be a threemonth old puppy, they could be a senior with three legs, but they are vicious," she said. "What we are asking is we have one standard that applies to all dogs."
The city's bylaw states that a vicious dog is: any dog that has bitten another animal or human being without provocation, any dog with a known propensity to attack other animals or humans without provocation; any dog that displays unprovoked aggressive behaviour and any dog listed in Schedule A of the bylaw.
Schedule A states that the following are deemed to be "vicious dogs" and includes any dog of mixed breeding including: put bull; pit bull terrier; American pit bull terrier;
Staffordshire bull terrier; American Staffordshire terrier; cane corso; Italian mastiff; presa canarios; fila brasileiro; and Argentinian dogo.
According to Fahr, a number of Greater Vancouver municipalities have come to realize that applying dangerous dog legislation to specific breeds doesn't work. She's urging the City of New Westminster to look at what other communities are doing and change the legislation.
Several animal rights advocates attended city council's June 11 meeting in support of removing breed-specific references in the animal control bylaw. Fahr said she was "very happy" with council's response to her request.
"They didn't promise anything," she said. "I felt heard. They treated me very respectfully."
Council has asked staff to report back on the matter.
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr agrees that amending the city's animal control bylaw to remove references to specific breeds of dogs as being deemed vicious may be the way to go.
"I have always said it's not a bad dog, it's a bad owner. That can happen with any breed of dog," he said. "I think it is unfair to zero in on a breed of dog."
James Doan, the city's supervisor of animal services, said staff are reviewing the city's 2005 animal control bylaw and expect to report back to council in early fall.
"Staff have been talking with other local surrounding municipalities to ensure what they do and what we do are similar," he said.
Doan noted that the city's goal would be to ensure that safety of the public is upheld.
Fahr, who has volunteered at the local animal shelter, said people considering adoption of animals deemed to be vicious breeds (often in the pit bull family) must be informed of the requirements to keep these dogs muzzled. Given the choice of adopting a Labrador retriever with behavioral problems or a pit bull that must be muzzled and look like Hannibal Lecter when it's out in public, she said most people will opt for the Labrador retriever.
Fahr said Delta noticed an increase in its adoption rates after it amended its vicious dogs bylaws.
According to Doan, the city's animal control shelter is currently home to one dog.
"For a period of time, we had no dogs at all," he added. "We had a pigeon and a cat."
In 2005, the city adopted a new animal control bylaw that was intended to allow the city to deal more effectively with barking dogs, by including definitions of "aggressive behavior" and "continuous sound" of dogs. The bylaw also increased dog licence fees, increased the impound time for dangerous dogs, included changes to reflect the contents of the Community Charter, contained a list of dogs deemed to be vicious, and prohibited individuals from keeping wild animals (a lengthy list that included caimans, monkeys, squirrels, raccoons and certain varieties of snakes ,such as boas and pythons).