June 29, 2013 - 8:00 AM
KELOWNA - Your dog may love roaming free in the outdoors, but he won't be the one picking up the bill. The Regional District for the Central Okanagan is currently beefing up penalties for dog bylaw violations and throwing in some rewards to ensure Kelowna's pet owners are on their best behaviour.
District spokesperson Bruce Smith says Kelowna is following in the footsteps of cities like Calgary, which uses strict enforcement and award programs.
“Next January there will be zero tolerance of dogs found without a license... there will be no wiggle room, you will be ticketed,” Smith says. Just how steep the fines will be is to be determined. A draft of the bylaw should be ready this fall, Smith says.
Currently all dogs in the central okanagan must be licensed, which costs $20 or $60 for dogs not spayed or neutered. Responsible ownership is not simply a matter of licensing your pet, it's about being "a good neighbour," Smith says, which means fencing your yard if you want to let your pet out.
Catherine Nickel was leashing up her golden retriever Cooper at Knox Mountain this afternoon and says being a dog-owner isn't always a walk in the park.
"Some dogs are bad though," she says, explaining how her sister's dog takes off down the street if it squeezes through an open door. One time the pound picked him up.
"It's not always the owner's fault," she says.
Part of the incentive to revise the by-law is also to cut down on enforcement costs, which run on taxpayer dollars.
“It takes a lot of time and resources to find who the owners are,” Smith says. The new bylaw aims to lower the cost of services on the general taxpayer and put it onto the owner. About two thirds of the dogs at the Kelowna dog pound are unlicensed.
But Kelowna dog owners deserve rewards for good behaviour too. One third of the animals received at the pound are licensed by their owners and the district is looking at ways to boost that percentage.
“This summer we'll be unveiling the dog owner awards program,” Smith says. The district is working with local businesses on a program called 'My Dog Matters' to arrange rewards cards and discounts for customers.
Smith says it will “award owners who are doing the right thing... leashing their dog in public and keeping it under control, so that everybody gets along and that we have a dog-friendly community.”
A rewards program sounds like a good idea to Nickel.
"That would be great," she says, glancing down at Cooper.
"Dogs are expensive... and he loves his toys and treats, it would be great to get a discount."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013