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Proposed animal care bylaw has no teeth, advocates say

 Council amends proposed changes to include tethering time limit

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Animal advocates say a proposed bylaw meant to protect furry friends doesn’t go far enough.

This comes after proposed changes made to the city’s pet owner’s bylaw were made public.

Despite the addition of provisions to address the tethering of animals, animals left in vehicles and animals left out in harmful weather, advocates claimed the bylaw falls short of properly protecting animals, labelling the proposed changes as a “diluted” version of what had been originally proposed during the public meeting process in September.

Several delegations appeared before the city’s corporate services committee to poke holes in the staff report, mainly taking issue with the exclusions of having a time limit on tethering an animal outside.

Advocates say they want to see a four-hour limit; however, the staff report claims such a limit is impossible to enforce.

“The position of our legal services is that the four hours is not enforceable,” said Jerry Conlin, director of municipal law enforcement and licensing services. He further explained that in order to fine a pet owner for a four-hour violation, a bylaw officer would need to watch the dog, uninterrupted, for four hours. The same goes for a neighbour who complains about a tethered dog. They must also be willing to provide evidence and testify in court, he says.

“I just caution that the four-hour limit…it’s going to be a difficult one,” Conlin said.

The staff report notes that leaving a dog outside for lengthy periods of time when it’s in distress would be covered under the bylaw’s three main provisions, which state that the animal is to be treated humanely, along with access to food, water and shelter and being taken to a vet when required.

Animal advocate Martin Field, a main driving force behind the bylaw changes, says the time limit is the most crucial aspect of adding tethering into the city’s bylaw.

“We need the teeth of a bylaw,” he said, adding that the bylaw changes could be used as an education opportunity for officers and the public.

“Staff also have the opportunity to hand over materials relating to animal care and have a positive interaction with the person,” he said.

The committee agreed to amend the bylaw, despite still having doubts about the time limit’s enforceability.

“We’ve heard the logic from municipal law enforcement, the logic from legal, but we’ve also become painfully aware of what happens to dogs when no one is watching,” said Councillor Nancy Diamond, noting that she has doubts about the enforceability but believes that by adding it into the bylaw, it will set a “benchmark” in the community that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.

The final decision will be made by city council on Nov. 30.

In addition to the tethering provision, staff also added sections to address animals left in vehicles during hot or cold weather, as well as animals left outside during harmful weather conditions.

Pet owners are now prohibited from leaving their animals in a vehicle unless they are prevented from getting out of the vehicle, even partially, and that they have suitable ventilation. The bylaw notes that a slightly open window does not provide adequate ventilation.

The bylaw also allows the city to enter the vehicle using “reasonable means, including force” to impound the animal.

The city will also deal with complaints as they relate to animals being left out in harmful weather conditions on a case-by-case basis.

The report states that based on a “myriad of factors,” such as species of the dog, it is hard to determine how certain breeds are impacted by different weather conditions.