Prince George city council has voted to stop classifying pit bulls and other bully breeds as "dangerous" and instead focus on the behaviour of individual dogs, as part of new rules around animal ownership in the city.
The new rules also mean cats need to have identification, and their owners could face fines if the animals wander off their property.
Prince George bylaw manager Fred Crittenden said the bylaw is based on best practices from across North America, as well as survey responses from 2,982 city residents.
Under the old rules, certain dog breeds, including pit bulls, were automatically classified as dangerous. Now, dogs will only be considered dangerous if the individual animal has killed or seriously injured a person or domestic animal, or if animal control officers have "reasonable grounds to believe [the dog] is likely to kill or cause serious injury."
Crittenden said it was challenging for staff to monitor all the dogs classified as dangerous under breed-specific legislation.
"It's much easier to identify the dogs that have aggressive issues and manage those than try to deal with perhaps hundreds of a specific breed," he said.
He also said some owners were not licensing their dogs in order to avoid paying the higher fees associated with specific breeds.
Dogs can be classified as "aggressive" if they display threatening behaviour without injuring anyone. Aggressive dogs will require sterilization, microchips and muzzles in public.
Coun.Brian Skakun was not convinced by the change.
"It's the same as me putting on the snow tires after it snows," he said. "I don't think we should just wait until something happens."
Only 20.4 per cent of residents surveyed said they were in favour of breed-specific legislation, compared to 64 per cent when the last survey was conducted in 2003.
Classifying dogs as dangerous on a case-by-case basis, rather than by breed, is endorsed by the B.C. SPCA and the Canadian Kennel Club.
Cats at large
The other major change was new rules surrounding cats. Under the previous bylaw, there were no specific rules for cat ownership, but now the pets must have a tag, tattoo or microchip, and owners could be fined if their cat goes onto someone else's property.
Cat traps can also be set up on private property but only if:
- It will not be below –10 C for the next 72 hours.
- The trap is shaded from sunlight.
- The trap is checked hourly and not used between 9 pm and 6 am.
- All adjacent property owners, including those across the street, are notified.
- Trapped cats are immediately given to a shelter or the city.
Coun.Jillian Merrick asked about requiring sterilization in order to curb the population of strays, but Crittenden said it would be difficult to enforce without a significant investment.
He also said staff considered limiting how many cats people can own, but, because the animals are "very elusive," it would be difficult to enforce.
New rules for 2018
Other new rules include requiring dog owners to carry something to pick up excrement while in public spaces, banning the practice of leaving dogs tied up in public without supervision and limiting how long dogs can bark per hour before being considered a nuisance (10 minutes during the day and five at night).
City staff will begin education around the new rules immediately and begin enforcement in 2018.
Read the new Responsible Animal Ownership Bylaw