Calgary

Dog trainer concerned by proposed changes to Calgary's responsible pet ownership bylaw

Calgary's responsible pet ownership bylaws are being updated and some of the proposed changes have some dog behaviour experts worried.

'Dogs bark to communicate. We can't really stop dogs from barking if we're looking at what their instinct is'

Proposed changes to Calgary's responsible pet ownership bylaw include expanding the nuisance pet designation to could include barking.  (Crouchy69/Flickr)

Calgary's responsible pet ownership bylaws are being updated and some of the proposed changes have some dog behaviour experts worried.

The proposed changes to the bylaw include:

  • Giving the chief bylaw officer the authority to declare an animal vicious. Currently that designation requires a court order.
  • Limiting ownership to six dogs and six cats per household.
  • Urban hens would be allowed with a proper coop and training for the owners
  • Limiting the number of dogs a person can bring to an off-leash area to six.

As a canine behaviour consultant, Barbara Walmer — who runs Good As Gold dog training — has seen it all. She says some of the changes to the responsible pet ownership bylaw are unfair. 

"Calgary's bylaw for the past 12 years has been touted, internationally as being very dog friendly, I do think some of the things that have come up that are in this current one that will be going in front of council are a concern," she said. 

One of Walmer's biggest problems with the changes is the idea of expanding the nuisance pet designation, which could include barking. 

"Barking is not something that you can just flip a switch on," she said. 

Barbara Walmer says some of the changes to the responsible pet ownership bylaw are unfair. (Terri Trembath/CBC News)

"Dogs bark to communicate. We can't really stop dogs from barking if we're looking at what their instinct is and what we've actually bred them for over many, many, many years. The idea of saying dogs in a community can't bark is a bit of a concern."

The city says peace officers apply objective standards such as the duration, frequency, decibel levels, nature of the surrounding area, number of dogs, time of day and cooperation from a dog owner to determine if the barking was reasonably likely to disturb others.

It says the proposed changes are written in a way to allow room for case-by-case scenarios.

"It's not a black-and-white issue, not by a long stretch," said Jennifer Lawlor, a business strategist with the city's community standards department.

"It's not about issuing the ticket and running, it's about looking at how we can solve that problem and prevent future problems from reoccurring."

The final decision on the proposed changes is going to city council May 31st. 

With files from Terri Trembath

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