Calgary pet bylaw puts ‘vicious’ designation in bylaw hands

Photo credit: Kristen Phillips / For Livewire Calgary

A recent dog biting incident put the spotlight on a new measure in the city’s responsible pet ownership bylaw allowing the designation of vicious animals.

On June 6, there was an incident near the Westbrook mall that involved what Calgary police said was a white pit bull. It apparently bit two Calgarians, one of whom was a seven-year-old boy, according to police.

This incident comes just after Calgary city council adopted a new set of bylaws regarding responsible pet ownership.

This new set of bylaws also takes into account the actions that should be taken involving vicious animals. An animal can be declared a nuisance after repeated aggressive behaviour, if it’s been found at large more than once, if there are noise complaints or if the owner can’t control the dog in an off-leash area.

Protecting both animals and people

Brad Nichols, director of operations and enforcement at the Calgary Humane Society said they worked closely with city administration to ensure that the bylaw works as effectively as possible.

“We had an opportunity to partake in the public engagement over the spring and summer of last year and it lets us go over line by line and provide some input on the draft file that we saw,” Nichols said.

One of the major changes to the responsible pet ownership bylaw is regarding vicious pets. Now, the city’s chief bylaw officer can deem a pet vicious. Before, it had to go through the provincial court system. The chief bylaw officer can also prescribe the conditions under which the animal is kept.

Nichols said the changes will allow animals to move through the system more fluidly.

“One of the more controversial changes was taking that designation of vicious animals and putting it into bylaw,” Nichols said.

“I actually don’t mind that. The reason being is that animals tend to flow quicker through the pounds that way rather than waiting for a court process, which can be lengthy.”

Nichols said there are things that Calgarians can do to make their pets more accustomed to the world around them.

Being a responsible pet owner

“Socializing your animals is quite important,” Nichols said.

“Getting adequate exercise for the animals and getting out into the world and getting used to the sights and sounds so it doesn’t freak out when it sees something that it is not used to.”

The new bylaw goes into effect as of January 2022. Nichols said there are certain aspects of pet ownership that aren’t getting the attention it deserves.

“While I saw that there was a limit on cats and dogs I saw that there was no limit whatsoever of exotic pets such as rabbits, rodents, or reptiles,” he said.

“We have run into a lot of homes that are overrun by these types of animals. It would make some sense to address some of the common exotic pets.”

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