Doggone variance sparks debate

The latest requests from dog owners to own more than the two allowed under the city
The latest requests from dog owners to own more than the two allowed under the city's bylaw were rejected, with the votes of Ken Christian, Tina Lange, Arjun Singh and Nelly Dever carrying the day.
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As the year of free dog variances draws to a close, Kamloops city council found itself getting philosophical this week about its two-dog bylawg.

“This is a two-dog town,” Ken Christian said.

“We have said this time and time again, and where we get ourselves in trouble is where we try to back up an adjustment to our bylaw.”

Christian’s comments came as council debated one of two applications to keep three dogs.

Arjun Singh had a different take on the matter.

“I don’t think it is a two-dog town,” he said. “We’re a three-dog-with-permission town.”

Dog variances have been on the majority of council agendas since the city decided to waive its $350 variance fee for successful applications until the end of 2012.

At this week’s council meeting, a request by Tosha Moen was a Kamloops first.

Rather than ask that she be allowed to keep three existing dogs, the North Shore resident was asking for permission to purchase a third dog to provide companionship to one of her pets.

Councillors were also faced with a variance request from Brocklehurst resident Shannon Kerr, who added a Chihuahua mix named Joey to her two-dog household about a year ago, after her mother had to give it up.

Kerr said she has bark collars on two of the dogs, plans to fence her yard and has tried to limit their contact with residents around her property, but her next-door neighbours claimed the dogs are a nuisance.

“Every time we go in our back yard, these dogs start barking,” Len Benoit told council.

“At night, if they go out, they seem to set up shop eight feet from our bedroom window.”

The Benoits said they hadn’t complained about the dogs to bylaw services because they didn’t want to put any stress on Kerr’s in-laws, who also live at her home.

Their concerns swayed the majority of council, though several argued the barking issue isn’t likely to be solved by reducing the number of dogs at Kerr’s home.

“There’s still going to be two fairly large dogs and the same issues will exist as before the Chihuahua came to the house,” Donovan Cavers said.

Community safety and enforcement manager Jon Wilson said letting Kerr keep her third dog would give the city more leverage on the barking issue, because the dog variance can be voided if a pet owner racks up too many bylaw complaints.

Tina Lange said three-dog variances shouldn’t be handed out in cases where there’s a neighbourhood issue.

“We need to look at it as rewarding really great dog owners who are not having an impact,” she said.

Council voted to deny Kerr’s application by a 4-3 vote, with Lange, Christian and Singh and Nelly Dever for the denial.

Councillors Nancy Bepple and Marg Spina were absent.

Moen’s request, which would have allowed her to begin asking her neighbours what they thought of her getting a third dog, was also denied.

Christian said it would set a bad precedent for council “to knowingly say that we intend to recommend to someone to violate our own bylaw.”

However, Pat Wallace argued council should refybd Moen her $350 application fee as a reward for asking permission rather than forgiveness.

Council agreed to that motion unanimously.

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