Animal House

Bonnyville Council debates how many animals is too many for one residence.

On Tuesday’s Town Council Meeting, Councillors debated the Town’s Animal Bylaw and how many animals and which type of animals are too much for one residence. Council also debated how are they going to enforce the bylaw. Mayor of Bonnyville Gene Sobolewski says that the number of animals isn’t as important as whether or not the pet owner is responsible.

“If we have a responsible pet owner with five dogs, they take care of the dogs, walk them, clean-up, they’re not left outside, don’t bark… that should be taken into consideration,” the mayor says he would like to see some kind of system that allows for more pets for responsible pet owners. While other Councillors felt five was just too many of one animals for any pet owner.

The bylaw presented to Council on Tuesday recommended that: No person shall keep or have more than five (5) dogs, of five (5) cats, or one restricted dog or any combination thereof to a maximum of five (5) domestic animals, in total on any premises with a municipal address in town.

Many Councillors supported the idea of a combined maximum of five (5) domestic animals, for example two dogs and three cats or three dogs and two cats. However, none supported five dogs or five cats. Councillor Lorna Storoschuk, “I definitely would not want five dogs living next to me.

Director of Planning & Development, Kathrine M. Currie, explains that the bylaw was shaped off of what other towns and cities use, “we looked at a number of bylaws and majority of them had a total number of five animals. That’s what we’re recommending.” The bylaw was also reviewed by the Bonnyville & District SPCA, Currie told Council that the SPCA was satisfied with the changes. “Our current bylaw is not working, because people have more [pets] than our current bylaw allows.” Another potential problem Currie sees arising, should Council not move forward with a five animal allowance, is that people would still own more pets and not licence them. “Then when they are at large, our bylaw officers cannot determine who they belong to.”

“The issue comes down to enforcement,” Mayor Sobolewski says the Town can set as many bylaws as it chooses in regards to pets, but if enforcement isn’t in place, it just doesn’t matter. “When these dogs are barking, what are we going to do? I received a ton of phone calls in regards to the barking issues. I think we need to take a little bit of time to figure out enforcement.” The mayor would like to see a plan in place as to who’s going to enforce the bylaw, how the enforcement is going to take place and what are the penalties for first, second, third, and subsequent offenses. “Enforcement is the major issue.”

“Instead of hard and fast, here’s the line, don’t cross. If the owner is responsible, the yard is clean, there’s no complaints… that’s a responsible owner, why wouldn’t they be allowed to do what they like. I think it comes down to, not a rule or regulation that ‘tho shall not have a maximum amount’, it should be determined by them being responsible owners.” Mayor Sobolewski says he would like to see some standards to care and responsibility that may allow for more animals in the bylaw.

Currently, this type of bylaw is mainly complaint driven, meaning a person would have to make a complaint, then the bylaw officer would attend the scene and determine if there was a bylaw infraction. There are a couple issues with this system; including, the complainant often feels like they do not want to complain on a neighbour and the problem may have resolved by the time the officer arrives on the scene and/or start again once the officer leaves the scene.

The Town is limited by its resources and funding. The Town does not have the resources to employ a bylaw officer to patrol the streets. This is the number one reason for many bylaw infractions being complaint driven, rather than proactive.

Council has directed Town Administration to table the bylaw and come back with some alternatives on the number of animals allowed, as well as how the Town shall proceed with enforcing the bylaw.