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Burnaby council looks at new rules and higher fees for owners of ‘vicious dogs’

Burnaby council is not banning so-called vicious dogs, but it is looking at making it more difficult for people to own one.

This would mean new rules, higher feels and  new regulations would apply to any dog that’s bitten someone without provocation, or any pit bull dog recognized as ‘pit bull like’.

“We’re looking at safety for non-dog owners and other dog owners in relation to their interaction with dogs in parks and public places,” said Burnaby Councillor Dan Johnston.

He said the catalyst has been some “incidences of biting” in the last five to six years.

“We are changing the definition of a vicious dog, making it more expensive to have a pit bull, increasing the licence once they have bit another dog or another person, a couple measures making it safer for the community,” he added.

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April Fahr from the group HugABull, said the situation with Burnaby is disappointing and confusing.

“It’s been 18 months since we asked for a review of the Animal Control Bylaw,” she said. “It seems like in that time very little research has taken place, very little data analysis. The report they’re using as a basis is basically a very brief number crunch that doesn’t align with any other numbers we’ve seen, and they’re prepared to pass these recommendations that are really going to affect a lot of people, that are going to cost taxpayers more money, that are going to fill our shelters, without any more public consultation than that.”

Johnston said he does not think Burnaby is picking on vicious dogs or dogs that look like pit bulls. “I think the numbers show that pit bulls are a greater risk to the community as a whole,” he said, but it’s not just about that breed.

However, Fahr said it appears pit bulls are targeted by these rulings and the numbers on how many pit bulls bite versus other breeds, are not consistent from report to report.

“I think there needs to be a lot more analysis done on what’s happening in Burnaby before they pass more discriminatory bylaws,” she added.

According to the Canadian Veterinary Journal in 2008, between 1990 to 2007, there have been 28 deaths caused by dog-related injuries – one from a pit bull, four from a Rottweiler, four from ‘sled dogs’, seven from an unknown breed, and seven from an ‘other’ or a mixed breed.

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Fahr said she thinks there are vicious dogs and there are risk factors. “Dogs that are kept on the end of chains are more likely to bite,” she said as an example. “Good legislation will target those factors and the poor ownership that creates dogs that bite. You can’t do it by breed, you can’t do it based on the way the dog looks.”

The motion was tabled tonight and will be brought back four weeks from now after public consultation. People can email Burnaby council or come to the next council meeting.