Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend, though it is easy to admit not every dog is every man’s bestie.
To help curb the negative consequences of unfriendly canines, the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass has an animal bylaw that lays out rules for pet owners.
However, during the July 4 council meeting, Coun. Lisa Sygutek voiced concerns that too many dog owners are unaware of the municipality’s leashing laws, particularly on recreation trails at the ski hill.
“It doesn’t make sense to me to have a bylaw if we’re not going to make sure that we enforce it to some extent, and I don’t feel we’ve enforced the bylaw for unleashed dogs at all,” she said, adding that posting “Dogs Must Be Leashed” signs at trailheads would help tie up the issue.
Not everyone on council agreed, however.
“The sign really doesn’t have no significance as to if you’re enforcing the bylaw or not,” said Coun. Dave Filipuzzi. “For me personally, I think it’s fine just the way it is. If our enforcement officers can go up there and enforce it the odd time, show a presence or this and that, I think that will show due diligence. I don’t think a sign’s going to make a difference.”
In response, Sygutek said informing dog owners about the rules would help alleviate the problem.
“Do they know? My question is, if we’ve turned a blind eye to it for the last 20 years, do they actually know?” she asked.
“Do they know about any of the bylaws?” Filipuzzi replied. “Are we going to start advertising every one of our bylaws because they don’t know? Nope.”
Crowsnest Pass’s animal control bylaw, Bylaw 991, does stipulate that dogs must be leashed on any public land controlled by the municipality, such as fields, pathways, trails and roads.
There are designated off-leash zones in forested areas, like north of Tim Hortons or the Bellevue Cemetery, which CAO Patrick Thomas said may be one reason why so many dogs are running free on the ski hill since it’s forested.
Any sort of enforcement at the skill hill, he added, would be tricky.
“The skill hill is one that is very challenging because there’s just a big, immense amount of land, and to try and track people where they are on there — it becomes very hard,” he said.
Fines for allowing dogs to run at large — that is, unleashed on public areas identified in the bylaw — start at $150 and jump to $250 for repeat offenders. Owners must still carry a leash while visiting off-leash areas.
An animal designated as “vicious” by the manager of protective services must always be leashed while in public; being found unleashed warrants a fine of $1,000.
Dogs found chasing, stalking or biting people, animals and vehicles can be fined $200; if a dog threatens, attacks, injures a person, or kills another pet, the fines range from $200 to $2,000, depending on severity.
For Coun. Dean Ward, enforcing fines was the only real way to address the problem.
“I think we could put a hundred signs around this community and we’re not going to fix the problem,” he said.
“We’ve got some reckless people here that don’t give a damn about the bylaw. I don’t want to point a finger at the mass majority, but there’s a few — all they give a damn about is when they get those fines put in their hands.”
Directing bylaw officers to be on the lookout for free-roaming Fidos, he added, would help get the point across.
“If we got an area that we’re having problems, let’s send a peace officer up there once in a while and let’s write a few tickets. I guarantee you, write a few tickets, 90 per cent of this problem will go away,” he said.
“I don’t think the signs will make a damn bit of difference because those people don’t read signs, and even when they do they don’t care. It’s enforcement.”
Council eventually reached the resolution to bring the animal bylaw forward for review at a future meeting.
The next council meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 15, 7 p.m. in council chambers.
By Laurie Tritschler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jul 19, 2023