Port Coquitlam to ban dangerous dogs from off-leash parks, among other new restrictions

Port Coquitlam, B.C., is set to strengthen its dangerous dog bylaw, banning the dogs from off-leash parks and requiring their owners to post signs on their property, among other restrictions.

The dogs must also be muzzled in public, and owners must post signs on their property

Halter for dog (cynoclub/iStock)

Port Coquitlam, B.C., is set to strengthen its dangerous dog bylaw, banning such dogs from off-leash parks and requiring their owners to post signs on their property, among other restrictions.

The city would join several other Lower Mainland municipalities with similar bylaws already in place, including Surrey and New Westminster.

Coun. Glenn Pollock said the move was prompted by a long, drawn-out case in which a dog killed a cat in front of its owner.

"We asked for a destruction order and the courts turned it down. The courts said no, it goes back to the owner with conditions," Pollock said.

"But the court doesn't enforce those conditions. They just say, here's the conditions, it must be muzzled. But who from the court would come to Port Coquitlam to make sure that's in place?

"We wanted to give our bylaw officers ... the ability to act on those conditions."

Two separate designations

The city has created two different designations: aggressive dogs and dangerous dogs.

A dog can be deemed aggressive for any unprovoked aggressive action taken against a person or other domestic animal, such as biting or chasing. Pollock says the city has about 40 dogs it considers aggressive.

Aggressive dogs are required to be leashed at all times, wear muzzles in public, and are forbidden from the city's two off-leash parks.

Owners can have their dog's aggressive designation forgiven if receives training from an approved trainer.

A dog is considered dangerous if it viciously attacks or kills a person or another domestic animal.

In addition to the aggressive dog restrictions, owners of dangerous dogs must also post signs on their property alerting passersby to the dog's presence.

Pollock says the city has two dogs it considers to be dangerous.

Advocates want provincial registry

There is a great deal of inconsistency in how dangerous dogs are regulated between municipalities in B.C., even within the Lower Mainland.

Surrey and New Westminster have bylaws similar to the new Port Coquitlam bylaw, but Vancouver has no such formal registry system.

Burnaby has breed-specific legislation that automatically considers all pit bulls to be dangerous.

At last summer's Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker put forward a resolution to create a province-wide registry of dangerous dogs that he says would help standardize the way such dogs are treated.

"[Currently], all that the dog owner needs to do is relocate to another community and these restrictions just disappear," Becker said.

"There's no carry-forward with the dangerous dog restrictions once these people relocate."

The resolution was approved, but Becker says the province indicated to him it had no intentions of creating such a registry in the near future.

He says his council will be meeting in the coming weeks to determine how to keep pushing the issue.

Root problem is unregulated breeding, B.C. SPCA says

The B.C. SPCA says behaviour-focused legislation such as the new Port Coquitlam bylaw is much more effective in reducing attacks than breed-specific legislation like pit bull bans.

Amy Morris, public policy and outreach manager for the B.C. SPCA, says the organization would support a province-wide registry, but is more concerned about a lack of regulation around breeding.

Morris said mistreatment of animals while young or pregnant is one of the main causes of aggressive behaviour. She said a lack of socialization to common scenarios, such as strangers walking onto a property, can have consequences later in life.

"If your animals from a young age aren't socialized to that, then they react with fear, and fear results in bites," Morris said.

Pollock said the Port Coquitlam bylaw is expected to pass at the city's next council meeting in a few weeks.