The Town of Ladysmith is getting set to amend its Dog Licensing, Control and Pound Bylaw to give dog owners the option to qualify for exemption from restricted breed regulations through the Canine Good Neighbour Certification Program.
The amendment, which is slated for approval at council’s next meeting June 6, means that owners of restricted dogs will not be subject to the bylaw’s requirements if they successfully complete and pass the certification, which is offered through the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC).
The decision came after the Dog Licensing, Control and Pound bylaw review committee heard a delegation from local dog owner Chris Wood on May 11. Wood argued the town’s restricted dog laws were discriminatory against restricted dogs with no known history of aggressive behaviour.
Wood, who owns two English Bull Terriers, asked the review committee to consider removing the breed from the town’s restricted dog list.
“I would ask the committee to re-examine whether specifically English Bull Terriers, which are not bred for fighting, have not been bred for fighting, which are a breed recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club, I would urge you to look again at whether they are justifiably included with the pit bull category,” he said.
Dogs that are on the town’s restricted list are subject to stricter requirements including containment, higher violation fees and mandatory spay/neuter for any dogs not registered with a recognized registry. Restricted dogs must also wear a leash and muzzle at all times in public. Ladysmith’s restricted dog list includes Pit Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire, English Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers.
The regulation and compliance of dogs in Ladysmith is overseen by Coastal Animal Services. According to CEO Trevor Hughes, there are approximately 1,100 licensed dogs in Ladysmith, with only a small percentage of those under the restricted dog category. Hughes noted Animal Control does not recognize certification for the dogs that have a previous record of being fined for aggressive behaviour.
Of the 950+ licensed dogs in Ladysmith, there are currently 14 licensed dogs on the restricted list and there were nine in 2010, Hughes said. As animal control officers work to bring all dogs under licensing compliance, those numbers may vary.
Since 2009, Coastal Animal Services has responded to 33 vicious dogs calls in Ladysmith. Of those, eight calls (24 per cent) were represented by dogs under the restricted breed list, Hughes said.
“Those are significant numbers,” he said.
Speaking to the government services committee May 16, Mayor Rob Hutchins updated members about the May 11 discussions, which included breed specific regulations.
“At the end of the day, we thought we had a good bylaw for public safety, however, recognizing that it may be a challenge for some very good dog owners with very good dogs, we ask that council consider amending the bylaw to allow for the Canine Good Neighbor Certification program,” he said.
Erring on the side of caution, Ladysmith’s restricted breed portion of the bylaw will remain unchanged at this time.
The City of Nanaimo recently amended their bylaw to recognize the program. Toni Morrison is a director on the board of Dog Friendly Nanaimo, which facilitates the certification through the CKC. Ladysmith dog owners can also take the certification through the Nanaimo Kennel Club.
Dog Friendly Nanaimo holds free obedience classes for dog owners wanting to take the certification and brings in a CKC evaluator to perform the test, which costs $20.
Once a dog goes through the test, the results are sent to the Canadian Kennel Club, a certificate is issued only if the dog passes the exam.
Once thought to include only purebreds, the program is equivalent to intermediate obedience, Morrison said.
“Generally, the people that are taking their dogs through the test are pretty responsible and want to be pro-active in the community,” Morrison said.
“Dogs aren’t allowed to be aggressive or poorly behaved during the test, so it demonstrates that the owner has control of the dog and that the dog is well behaved in these situations.”
To pass certification, the dog must be more than six months old and must successfully go through 12 steps to ensure that it can be trusted to present good manners at home, in public places and around other dogs.
“The evaluator handles the dog, pets the dog, greets the dog, and the dog has to be well behaved,” Morrison said.
Other steps include accepting a friendly stranger, coming when called, and reaction to a passing dog.
“The dog is not allowed to be lunging, or pulling or dragging the owner over there, it’s got to be well behaved, walking next to the owner and listening to commands,” Morrison explained.
Morrison said the bylaw amendment is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t address the bigger issues facing owners of restricted breeds.
“If they do their research, they’ll find that these restricted breed bylaws are more of a band-aid solution and it’s more of a people issue than a breed issue,” she said.
“The target is better focused on promoting responsible ownership and targeting individual dangerous dogs than a whole breed.”
For more information on the certification program, visit www.ckc.ca.