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Vancouver council to look at giving dangerous dogs a second chance

Last Updated Feb 25, 2020 at 5:16 pm PDT

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Summary

The current bylaw requires that dangerous dogs be isolated and muzzled.

Proposal would give dog owners the opportunity to take their pets to a veterinarian or animal behaviorist

Council voted in support of directing staff to prepare legal language to officially change the bylaw

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver council voted Tuesday to look at giving dogs deemed dangerous a second chance.

The motion, from Green Party councillors Michael Wiebe and Pete Fry, argued before the meeting that the city’s current animal control bylaw is a “detriment to both animal welfare and the long-term assurance of public safety.”

Once a dog has been designated as dangerous or aggressive, the current bylaw requires they be isolated from other dogs and muzzled.

But that “doesn’t really address the underlying behaviour issues,” Fry said.

The proposal would give dog owners the opportunity to take their pet to a veterinarian or animal behaviorist who could diagnose the root of the problem, Fry added.

Council voted in support of directing staff to prepare legal language to officially change the bylaw at a later date.

“Often times, the aggression can be a result of illness or [a reaction to] past trauma – and often these can actually be overcome through training or medical treatment,” he said.

The proposed changes wouldn’t mean dangerous dogs would suddenly be unmuzzled and unleashed all over the city, Fry added.

“It’s not to say that there is no such thing as an aggressive dog that needs to be muzzled and isolated,” he said. “There certainly are and this is not an intention to remove that designation.”

Council voted in support of directing staff to prepare legal language to officially change the bylaw at a later date.

Victoria Shroff, a Vancouver-based animal law lawyer, said before the meeting that the proposal is addressing a “hugely important” issue.

“I think the idea of addressing the rehabilitation potential of dogs is incredibly important because otherwise a dog is just being judged on their worst day,” she said.

But Shroff said she was concerned about the inclusion of animal behaviorists in the proposed process because there are very few people with a masters- or PhD in the field with that designation.

“I think there’s the ability to have people who may not have that rarefied educational designation also be able to assist,” she said.

She said people “on both sides of the leash” need to be trained in animal behaviour to prevent dangerous situations.

-with files from Mike Hall.