By Belle Hatfield
The Town of Yarmouth’s dog bylaw, which was passed in November 2011, is under revision. Yarmouth town council will hold second reading of the amended bylaw on Thursday, March 14, after which the amendments could be approved.
Among the revisions is a change in the definition of owner to include the registered owner of the property at which a dog normally resides. The change is being made to address unregistered dogs for which no one is taking responsibility. It will also apply to the owners of apartment buildings. It is anticipated that the inclusion will provide tenants of multi-unit dwellings with some protection from irresponsible dog owners in their buildings.
Under definitions, part H of the bylaw is being amended to include the following as a definition of an owner.
“For the purposes of this by-law more than one person may be considered the owner of any dog. The registered property owner for any property in which a dog is habitually found shall be deemed to be harbouring that dog for the purposes of this bylaw.”
The town’s solicitor was questioned about this amendment when council met as committee of the whole on Tuesday, Feb. 5, to discuss the proposed amendments.
Greg Barro explained that, by identifying the property owner as responsible for any dogs that habitually reside at that residence, the amendment is designed to include owners of rental units. He said landlords have a degree of responsibility for what takes place on rental premises.
“ You have these unregistered dogs -- if the dog does something and no one admits to being an owner, then there is no one to prosecute. This ensures some degree of accountability,” he said.
Carol Denomme of Atlantic Canine Services provides animal control services for all three municipal units in Yarmouth County. Speaking with the Vanguard, she explained that there have been situations where tenants have been terrorized by a dog being allowed to run loose in the common areas of an apartment building. In other cases, faced with having to comply with provisions under the dangerous and fierce dog provisions of the bylaw, owners of designated dogs have kept them locked in the house, rather than comply. The resulting sanitation issues have created hardships for tenants. She said in some cases the landlord has been reluctant to intervene.
Other amendments include provisions for allowing the animal control officer to safely deal with animals suffering from the parvovirus, which is highly contagious. Among the amendments is a requirement that dogs be cremated instead of buried. She said it a public safety issue, because if affected carcasses are dumped in the garbage or buried, the disease will be spread within the canine community.
Denomme said none of the amendments is designed to adversely impact responsible pet owners.
“You need the public on your side,” she said, of her efforts to enforce the dog bylaw.
Councillors sought assurances from the solicitor at the Feb. 5 meeting that the amendments should hold up in court.
“They are not tested, but I certainly drafted it in light of the Municipal Government Act. I do believe they could be enforced,” Barro said.
The bylaw can be viewed at the town hall.
Animal control services for Yarmouth County can be accessed by calling 742-3147, which is answered by dispatchers at the Yarmouth fire hall.