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Pemberton considers regulating pet ownership



The Village of Pemberton is considering a new bylaw that will regulate the ownership and control of animals within its boundaries.

The bylaw was introduced at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Sept. 21 and was referred back to staff for further consideration, said Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who said it was described at the meeting as "too much of a big city bylaw for a small community."

The bylaw, titled the "Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw #651, 2010," came in response to an incident involving a litter of puppies that wasa seized by the village during a cold snap. The puppies were housed in a homemade dog house on the owner's property that the village didn't think was adequate to shelter them, according to Ben Hansler, Pemberton's Community Services Enforcement Officer.

The Village of Pemberton picked up the puppies but legal advice told them that their existing bylaw didn't recognize the puppies because they were less than three months old. They thus had to return the puppies to their owner.

The new bylaw aims to counter that situation. In addition, it asks much of pet owners in Pemberton. Among other things, it would require all dogs and cats aged three months or older to be licensed.

Owners would also be required to ensure their animals don't run rampant throughout the municipality. Animals would not be allowed to vocalize excessively or in a manner that might "reasonably disturb" any person. The bylaw also specifies that no animals shall be allowed to be "at large" within the village and cats cannot leave their owners' properties between dusk and dawn.

That regulation is intended to help guard against missing cats, which is often believed to be the result of coyotes snatching them and eating them during nighttime hours.

If any animal defecates on public or private property that does not belong to the pet owner, the owner will be required to remove the fecal matter immediately and dispose of it in a sanitary manner, but it doesn't specify how. The bylaw is vague in determining which animals it applies to - and that likely means it also applies to horses, a staple of an agricultural community like Pemberton.

Sturdy said in an interview that this regulation proved a particular sticking point for council.

"Portions of the bylaw seemed onerous," he said. "It was mentioned in the report that horse manure was a problem. Certainly everybody has accepted that dog manure is a problem and a horse is a problem in the eyes of some.

"It was during the conversation reflected that in particular areas, there can be a real excess of horse manure on certain trails. It's not a pleasant experience for pedestrians and children and strollers, so it has an impact.

"So how do you find the balance, that is, that reflects those interests. And the idea you have to go along, sweep up after your horse was not embraced."

Other regulations under the proposed bylaw specify that any person can seize a dog or cat found at large within the village and take it to the pound. Any dog or cat seized is considered impounded from the time it comes under the control of an Enforcement Officer or pound keeper. The officer or keeper shall then make all "reasonable efforts" to determine the identity of the owner of a dog or cast and notify them whether they're impounded, whether alive or dead.

An animal can remain impounded for a minimum 72 hours unless the animal is claimed by its rightful owner. After that the animal becomes the property of the village and can be adopted for such a price as is established once implanted with a microchip or tattoo to identify them, unless it's a dangerous dog.

Once reasonable attempts have been made to place an animal, it can be euthanized by lethal injection.