Should pet owners who refuse to ID their attacking animals be charged?

Some owners fail to 'fess up in order 'to avoid a charge': report

October 01, 2017

An advisory committee to city council says pet owners who refuse to identify which of their animals was responsible for an attack should be charged. (CBC)

Animal owners in Saskatoon who refuse to identify which of their pets attacked a person, or another pet, should be charged with a bylaw violation.

That's one of several recommendations from a group — including several local veterinarians — that advises city council on animal services in Saskatoon.


"It's very difficult for charges to be brought forward if the dog isn't identified," said Dr. Karen Sheehan, a local vet and member of the city's advisory committee on animal control.

'To avoid a charge'

The proposed "failing to identify" offence would apply to animals that have been deemed dangerous by the Saskatoon Animal Control Agency and is meant to put the onus on owners, instead of victims, to eyeball offending animals.

"Those who know both animals are best equipped to satisfy this requirement," wrote city solicitor Jodi Manastyrski in a summary report on the recommendations.

"In some instances, to avoid a charge, an owner will refuse to identify the offending animal in cases where there is no question that one of the animals was involved in an incident."

Victims of animal attacks "may not have been in a state of mind to take note of identifying features of an animal," added Manastyrski.

Saskatoon city councillor Zach Jeffries sits on the advisory committee on animal control. (CBC)

No proposed fine is included in the summary.

The city says it's unaware of whether there's a similar law in other municipalities.

"To the best of my knowledge that was the result of recommendations that were coming from some folks who take care of the prosecutions on those particular cases," said Zach Jeffries, the city councillor who sits on the advisory board.  

'Lessen the strain' on SPCA

The advisory committee is also recommending that the amount of time owners have to pick up a pet dropped off at the Saskatoon SPCA be reduced to three days from four.

"The SPCA publicizes these animals in hopes that an owner comes forward, but it is rare that this occurs after a 72-hour period passes," wrote Manastyrski. "The current holding period exposes animals to the general stress of the shelter and to potential diseases."

The reduced time would also "lessen the strain on the limited resources of the SPCA."

The animal shelter could not be reached for comment.

Sheehan says the SPCA does everything it can to identify a stray pet after it's brought in. That includes looking for a collar, checking to see if the animal is microchipped and cross-referencing the animal with listings on online lost and found pet pages.

A cat up for adoption at the Saskatoon SPCA in August. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

She said the shortened window would be consistent with rules in Regina and align nicely with Saskatchewan's Animal Protection Act, which allows shelters to adopt out unclaimed animals after three business days.

But the bylaw change would also serve a more practical function.

"The reality is the city has a very big problem with stray animals in general," said Sheehan.

One of the rooms at the Saskatoon SPCA where cats available for adoption are put on display. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

She said 50 per cent of dog owners ultimately pick up their pets.

"That number is much lower for cats. It's, like, 10 per cent," she said. "There is a huge stray cat population or cat overpopulation problem in the city.

"This would be a way that these cats can be moved through the system a little bit faster."    

Food costs going up

Another change would involve hiking the daily "sustenance fee" charged by the SPCA to pet owners to $15 from $10. That's the fee the SCPA charges to owners while their animal is in the shelter's care to cover costs such as food. 

"The fee has not been increased from $10.00 per day since it was first implemented in 1999, while the costs of care and food for animals has increased," wrote Manastyrski.

City councillors are expected to discuss the proposals Monday after 9 a.m. CST.


Guy Quenneville
Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

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