Vancouver city council to discuss changes to "aggressive dogs" by-law

Feb 25 2020, 10:16 am

Vancouver city council will discuss a motion during Tuesday’s meeting that, if passed, could allow for aggressive dogs to be re-assessed and possibly reconciled after a certain period of time.

The motion, titled “Relief and Rehabilitation of Aggressive Dog Designation,” was submitted by Councillors Pete Fry and Michale Wiebe. The two argue that when a dog is designated as “aggressive” by the city’s Animal Control by-laws, they lose out on exercise, socialization, and training opportunities. In turn, the councillors say that the long-term effects are detrimental to both the animal and public safety.

“The by-law codifies the designation of ‘aggressive dog’ as a life-sentence of muzzling, restricted socialization, reduced exercise, and reduced training opportunities,” reads the motion. “Which is a detriment to both animal welfare and the long-term assurance of public safety.”

“Neither the by-law nor the Vancouver Charter distinguishes between the various reasons dog can be aggressive, nor do these laws provide the potential to recognize the prognosis of dogs.”

The motion also says that “the Vancouver Charter codifies the designation of ‘dangerous dog’ as a death sentence unless the dog guardian is able to succeed in court to save the dog’s life.”

Fry and Wiebe say that muzzles, reduced socialization, and fewer off-leash opportunities are “only a part of a comprehensive strategy” to manage and rehabilitate aggressive dogs. They also note that animal behaviourists cite a number of underlying causes for aggressive behaviour, some including trauma, fear, anxiety, and inadequate socialization.

The motion, if passed, would allow for a dog owner to apply for the “re-assessment and possible re-evaluation” of an aggressive dog. This could only be done, however, after the animal and owner work with a professional animal behaviourist to “assess and modify the behaviour of the dog” for at least a year. The decision would ultimately be left to the City of Vancouver’s Animal Control Authority.

Changes also include adjustments to the legal language in Animal Control by-laws, as well as a staff report that examines other animal control by-laws that exist in surrounding cities in the Lower Mainland.