Burnaby City Council voted unanimously Monday night to toughen its vicious dog bylaws, raising the fines for owners of vicious breeds to $500 for their first incident with animal control officers.

The city also raised dog licensing fees for vicious breeds to $150 per year, fines for unmuzzled vicious dogs to $200 and impoundment fees to $400.

The bylaw defines a vicious dog as: "a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, an American Pit Bull Terrier and any dog generally recognized as a pit bull or pit bull terrier and includes a dog of mixed breed with predominant pit bull or pit bull terrier characteristics."

Mayor Derek Corrigan said he would feel responsible if he didn't move ahead with the stricter rules and someone was attacked.

"I wouldn't want to remove this and have a vicious attack on someone, a child in our community by a pit bull and feel somehow that having withdrawn this legislation i might have been responsible for that."

Pit bull advocate April Fahr was one of several dog owners who spoke at last night's meeting in opposition to the changes, saying breed-specific legislation doesn't work.

"We also have to ask ourselves, well, six per cent of pit bull bites occurred in Burnaby over the last ten years — what are we doing about that other 94 per cent of bites? What happened here tonight that's going to prevent those other 94 percent of bites?"

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The Burnaby bylaw targets breeds such as pit bulls.

Fahr says the city council sided with a perceived silent minority and says pit bulls are being unfairly stigmatized.

"It only punishes responsible owners. The irresponsible owners simply don't care and they're going to keep doing everything they do already."

The city says public safety outweighs the concerns of dog owners about the reputation of pit bulls