Animal control bylaw to learn new tricks

Staff ~ The Record
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By Christopher Gooding
The Record
SPRINGHILL - A proposed animal control bylaw put forward by the Town of Springhill did not survive its public hearing but the input received by council from citizens and organizations is being heralded as successful achievements.
Citizens gave the proposed bylaw a cool reception, citing concerns over the wording in some sections and personal interpretations in others, but in due time the talk moved from outrage to discussions on how the bylaw can be improved to reflect the best interests of everyone, whether they walk on two legs or four.
Coun. Norman Rushton, chair of the committee that presented the proposed bylaw which would replace the present canine control bylaw, lauded the input and conceded the changes and consideration council received from the hearing would require the bylaw to go back to the drawing board. As written, the bylaw identified many ramifications for canines left open to interpretation that did not sit well with many residents.
"Your act does say a dog without provocation has bitten a person or domestic animal - it doesn't say whether it's on private property or off private property - is fierce," Ralph Ross said. "If my dog bites a cat that came on my property you will consider it fierce. That's wrong."
The bylaw originally introduced measures that any animal considered fierce could be destroyed but the committee will explore this and several other articles in the redrafting phase to determine how rewording could protect provoked animals while providing public safety from unprovoked animals.
"We need a ground document we can work from," Rushton said. "There has to be something to deal with feral animals."
Another issue the committee will need to clarify goes right back to the provincial document that allows the township to write an animal control bylaw. The Municipal Government Act [MGA] awards municipalities certain powers, Rushton explained, but those same decisions are then later rescinded in the MGA. Powers within the MGA allow the animal control officer to destroy an animal, but elsewhere it states a judge makes the final decision.
"We're going to err on the side of caution and get a legal opinion and if we can't the decision will go to a judge," Rushton said.
The bylaw wasn't without its supporters, however.
"We have a serious problem with feral cats," John Hopkins said. Cats aren't licensed and they can roam at large. I spend considerable money to make raised [garden] beds and every morning I have to clean up my garden because of cats."
The committee's ongoing commitment to present an animal control bylaw that will represent the majority, Rushton said, will one day address those concerns.
The proposed bylaw received constructive criticism from the LA Animal Shelter, who claimed at the hearing to be the only pound service in Cumberland County. As written, the bylaw introduced a number of responsibilities for the pound keeper which the shelter took issue with.
"I want to commend you on beginning this process, Jean Hanley of the LA Animal Shelter said. "But I'm concerned about the euthanizing of feral animals. We want to ensure it's done painlessly and as humanely as possible."
Presently, representatives from LA Animal Shelter said, their services are not contracted by any municipal unit and provides their services as a not-for profit organization, an issue Mayor Allen Dill says will be looked at in greater detail. The shelter also has a policy against destroying animals unless the animal in question is suffering.
Council lauded Rushton and the public input, saying while the measures requiring further consideration may change the nature of the bylaw and will require it to be rewritten and reintroduced for a first-reading and public hearing, the community is on its way to presenting a sound bylaw.

Geographic location: Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Amy
    March 09, 2010 - 09:26

    I think the same about the dogs...but the cats i don't...I have a cat my self and he is a out door cat has been sents he was born...and there is no way i can not let him go out,,,he a out door cat and i for one think there are a lot more inporten things then this to look after in this town.....My cat is my little baby and I will keep letting him out.