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Opinion: Why proposed modifications to Vancouver’s canine by legislation are regarding

Written for Every day Hive by Rebeka Breder, who practices solely animal legislation and is predicated in Vancouver, BC. She has additionally been an adjunct professor of animal legislation in legislation faculties throughout BC. She is the recipient of awards together with High 25 Most Influential Attorneys in Canada, and Finest Lawyer. TEDx Speaker (2022)


Since 2020, the Metropolis of Vancouver has been engaged on modifications to its canine bylaws. In April 2022, Vancouver Metropolis Council lastly voted in favor of constructing important amendments to the present Vancouver Animal Management Bylaw, which can have an effect on canine throughout the metropolis boundaries. These modifications come into impact in January 2023.

Councilor Pete Fry spearheaded this initiative and tried to make progressive modifications within the legislation. Whereas I made submissions to the town supporting Fry’s suggestions, I additionally submitted my critical considerations with a few of the Metropolis workers’s suggestions.

The concept behind the town’s modifications to its canine bylaws is to implement a brand new canine licensing method to managing aggressive canine and to permit for the rehabilitation of those canine. The Metropolis needs to raised handle the situations on a canine license that match the severity and underlying causes of an aggressive canine incident. The town additionally intends to offer a brand new attraction mechanism, the place the town can evaluate an “aggressive” designation whether it is acceptable to take action.

Laudable intentions, certainly. However they’re additionally fraught with some issues.

The primary main change is the broadening definition of an “aggressive canine,” which can now embody a canine that has, with out provocation, bitten one other home animal or individual or displayed aggressive habits. “Aggressive behaviour” can be outlined as “any hostile assault by a canine on an individual or home animal, together with pursuing an individual or home animal in a hostile method.”

One of many fundamental issues with this definition is that it doesn’t require a certified skilled to be concerned earlier than a canine is taken into account “aggressive.” The truth is that animal management officers usually are not educated sufficient or certified to grasp canine habits nicely sufficient earlier than designating a canine as aggressive. Solely certified animal behaviorists, or certified veterinarians with experience in animal habits, could make the precise name on whether or not a canine is aggressive. One of many fundamental causes I’m able to save canine from dying row or undeserving “aggressive” by legislation infractions is as a result of courts take heed to the opinion proof of certified animal behaviorists.

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The opposite critical concern with the definition of “aggressive canine” is, now that it features a canine with “aggressive habits,” it’s a subjective time period. A “hostile assault” to 1 individual might look like a extra playful interplay to a different. Or a canine “pursuing an individual in a hostile method” could seem threatening to 1 individual (suppose, an individual who is usually frightened of canine) when that’s not reflective of actuality (suppose, a canine following somebody in a relaxed, non- threatening method). All of this could result in a misinterpretation of whether or not a canine was actually displaying “aggressive habits.” In these circumstances, does the canine should be labeled as “aggressive” for the remainder of his or her life?

As soon as a canine is deemed “aggressive,” canine homeowners are sometimes given letters from the animal management workplace advising them to at all times have their canine leashed (together with in off-leash areas) and muzzled, together with different restrictions. Whether or not canine homeowners have to abide by these “orders” is a completely completely different query. Suffice it to say that there may be important restrictions on a canine’s welfare and freedom.

On the flip facet, one of many key enhancements to the brand new canine bylaws is that guardians of canine who’ve been deemed “aggressive” will now be capable to have this designation reviewed after 12 months if there have been no aggressive canine complaints that have been investigated and verified by an animal management officer, together with different necessities, like canine coaching. Up till these modifications, there was no formal solution to attraction an “aggressive canine” letter to the town.

It is very important word that this new attraction provision will even be retroactive. Canine homeowners who acquired an “aggressive canine” letter earlier than January 2023, will be capable to attraction to the town.

There are additionally different important modifications, equivalent to the general canine licensing regime and the power of animal management to grab a canine if an individual doesn’t have the required aggressive canine license – which may result in a canine being placed on dying row. Because the adage goes, the satan can be within the particulars as soon as the brand new canine by legislation is revealed and efficient in January 2023.

This opinion piece is predicated on the author’s understanding of Metropolis Council’s public assembly on April 13, 2022. Some data might change, and additional particulars can be identified, as soon as the bylaw formally comes into impact.

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