The City of Vancouver receives more complaints about off-leash dogs than any other dog related infraction. (CBC)

The City of Vancouver is issuing fewer tickets to dog owners who break the rules despite a promise to get tough on enforcement, according thousand of city records obtained by CBC News.

For more than a year, Vancouver has advertised increased enforcement of the city's animal control bylaw.

However, according to more than 6,000 city records the number of tickets issued to dog owners has dropped every year since 2008, while warnings continue to grow. The city says it is also receiving more complaints about dogs.

Top 10 infractions:

  1. No license.
  2. Off-leash.
  3. Running at large.
  4. Aggressive dog not muzzled.
  5. Barking.
  6. Aggressive dog not secured.
  7. Failure to remove excrement.
  8. Impromper enclosure.
  9. Failure to provide basic care.
  10. More than three dogs.

CBC's analysis of the enforcement records shows no one has been ticketed for barking, or failing to pick up excrement in two years, even though the records show the city gets an average of 400 complaints a year about barking dogs, and complaints about waste are also rising.

Park patrons frustrated

At Kitsilano Park, local resident Joshua Hergesheimer said he is frustrated when owners let their dogs run free and scare his three-year old twin daughters.

"They have no problem with dogs on leashes...but a dog that's larger than them and runs straight up and starts licking them, they don't understand the consequence of that, they're scared," he says.

Hergesheimer says he's tried asking owners to leash their dogs or move to nearby Hadden Park, where dogs are allowed off-leash. But he says most won't comply, and some are aggressive with him. He's given up calling the city's 311 hotline about it.


Dog tickets and warnings - all offences. (Source: City of Vancouver)

"I have about zero confidence in the city to enforce this," says Hergesheimer. "I've called the city about it a couple of times and I've been told that if there's an animal enforcment officer around and they do notice this infraction they can speak to the person but we all know that doesn't happen."

According to city records, the animal control office receives about 1100 complaints about off-leash dogs each year, more than any other topic. 

CBC's analysis of city records shows off-leash tickets did increase in 2011 compared to the year before, but remained about half what they were in 2008.

But Vancouver's animal control manager Sarah Hicks says enforcement has become more rigorous because tickets are no longer cancelled, or "voided" once the owner complies.


Off-leash/at large complaints vs. enforcement. Incidents of complaints for 2011 not provided. (Source: City of Vancouver)

"If you have an infraction for no license, being off-leash, those tickets do stand and do go through for the payment process or the prosecution process," said Hicks.

"The reason for that is because we hadn't seen the compliance the voluntary compliance from members of the public for leashing issues or for licensing issues."

Hicks says it's difficult to ticket dog owners, because they need a real name, and address, which the owner might refuse to provide.

She says they also need a witness able to testify in court about the infraction. In the case of a neighbour, the person complaining might not be willing to do that.

Animal control officers can also act as witnesses when they see problems first-hand, but Hicks says dog owners breaking the rules tend to scatter when officers arrive.


Barking complaints vs. enforcement. Incidents of complaints for 2011 not provided. (Source: City of Vancouver)

"We're really good at clearing a park within a matter of seconds of showing up," says Hicks. "It's definitely one of the challenges trying to talk to everybody — they're not going to queue up for us and wait" for a ticket or warning, she says.

Hicks says that given the number of complaints they get about dogs, the animal control department is looking for better ways to respond to the public's concerns.