UPPER NAPPAN - The majority of Cumberland County councilors aren't in support of having working dogs exempt from municipal bylaws.
The issue was brought up at Cumberland County's monthly meeting Wednesday in a letter submitted by Graham Reid, president of the Sheep Producers Association of Nova Scotia (SPANS).
The letter was sent in hopes the county would support an effort to have the province "exempt any dog whose sole purpose is the protection of livestock, from any existing municipal bylaw."
Warden Keith Hunter says he attended a meeting in the kitchen of Leon Smith in January that included "three farmers that employ certain breeds of dogs that hunt coyotes."
Hunter says the farmers wanted to convince him that because the livestock dogs did roam, that they should be exempt from the bylaws.
Councillor John Kellegrew said he sympathized with the farmers and that the county should try and support them as much as possible.
"The farming industry in the province of Nova Scotia is getting worse every day. When a farmer loses a sheep or calf, it's putting them one more step closer to being out of business," he said, adding farmers struggling to survive now wouldn't be helped if they kept losing livestock.
Hunter said the concerns brought forth by the farmers were exactly what his fellow councillor stated.
"They're having problems farming. It's not a very lucrative business. If they do lose animals, it's just one more nail in the coffin," the warden said.
While the warden isn't in favour of changing the county's bylaw, he said he would be in favour of voting for a resolution that supported the farmers' efforts before the Nova Scotia government.
"I don't think we should change our own bylaw and be the only one in the province to do so, but if the Nova Scotia government wants to change it across the province, it's pretty hard for us to stay out of it," he said.
Hunter, Kellegrew and Gerald Reid voted in favour of supporting the plight. However, the other seven councillors defeated the motion. Deputy Warden Kathy Redmond said the issue was something council shouldn't touch.
"I don't care what type of dog you have, you have property and if your sheep are off the property, you're breaking another bylaw there because you have livestock at large," she said, adding working dogs shouldn't be off the property chasing the livestock.
"How many of these dogs are chasing wildlife other than coyotes?"
As director of policy and research, Steve Ferguson told council dogs have to be under the control of somebody at all times, or at least on the property of the owners.
"We've had a number of complaints about a dog that somebody owns that is apparently one of these dogs," he explained.
"A property owner was complaining repeatedly about this dog being on their property. We warned (the dog owner) and then we laid a charge."
Ferguson said warnings aren't usually issued to dog owners unless there's a serious incident that occurred. Sometimes, he adds, it might only take a phone call from the county's K9 control officer, Dan Matthews.
In Reid's letter to council, six breeds of dog were listed that are considered livestock and fowl guardians - Akbash, Anatollian, Pyrenees, Komondor, Kuvaaz and Maremma.
Councillor Phillip Donkin says he understands where the farmers are coming from, as he has owned animals for 35 years.
"I've lost calves to coyotes, I know all about it and it's not pleasant, but I think to take the issue and put the dog being out of the boundary and exempt from our bylaw - honestly, I can't go along with it."