Dog bylaw passes first reading despite animal shelter's concern

by Keith Corcoran

 BRIDGEWATER - Town council here passed first reading of a bylaw that an animal advocacy group says gives dog control officials too much power.

 Second reading is scheduled for the February 27 council meeting. The amended dog bylaw can become law after second reading passes.

 The Sheltering Helpless Animals in Distress (SHAID) society, which oversees a shelter in Whynotts Settlement, previously told civic politicians that such officers have too much wide-ranging power to kill an animal without notice or complaint. But the town received a legal opinion telling them it wasn't necessary to include anything from SHAID's submission.

 Bridgewater Mayor Carroll Publicover is confident officers would show the proper restraint.

 "I think the assumption there is that there might be an officer at some point in time who might be too arbitrary," the mayor said after first reading passed January 23.

 Councillors are also satisfied with the process used to declare when dogs are considered vicious.

 "I think our [personnel] are trained in community policing and I think that would extend to situations where there was a dog at large. I don't think it would be the first instinct to put that dog down. I think [there] would have [to] be demonstrated reason for that action."

 Bridgewater's been working on changes to the bylaw since 2009. Permanent dog tags, annual registrations and higher fines and fees are among some of the new measures.

 Should the amendments pass, dog owners will get a registration tag - good for the duration of their pooch's life - and be required to pay an annual $10 or $20 re-registration charge depending on whether Fido is fixed.

 The cost of room and board for impounded dogs would rise to $15 per day from $4.75. The fee to destroy or euthanize a dog would increase to $175 from $25. The fine for not registering a dog will jump to $100 from $10 and replacing a tag will cost $5 instead of $1.

 The town also hopes to increase the number of registered dogs within town limits. It's estimated only 20 to 25 per cent of dogs within town are signed up.

 Bridgewater currently receives an average of $3,500 in revenue from dog licencing but the program loses more than $5,000 a year when factoring in dog catcher fees and animal board and disposal costs.

 The bylaw hasn't been updated since 1996.

posted on 02/01/12