PET OWNERS REMINDED OF CONSEQUENCES, FINES
VERNON - The B.C. Conservation Service is investigating reports of dogs chasing California bighorn sheep to their deaths in the Westside Road area and warns that owners are liable for fines and even court charges if pets are caught pursuing wildlife.
Since January 2016, conservation officers received two separate reports of dogs chasing bighorn sheep in residential communities on Westside Road, near Fintry. The sheep — two in all — were either found dead or had to be put down, conservation officer Mike Stern says.
“Members of the public witnessed a dog biting at the sheep,” Stern says of the second incident, which occurred Tuesday, Feb. 23.
He says the dogs didn’t directly kill the sheep by attacking them, but likely contributed to the deaths by distressing them.
Dogs chasing wild animals is punishable under the Wildlife Act, starting with a minimum $345 fine and potentially escalating to court, where penalties can reach the $1,000 range.
Conservation has stepped up patrols in the Westside area, and Stern says they’ve been able to identify the owner of the dog involved in the Feb. 23 incident.
“The investigation is still ongoing but enforcement action will be taken,” Stern says.
Not enough information was provided in the first incident to further an investigation, and Stern is reminding the public to make thorough, timely reports when they witness such an offence.
“Usually what happens is we get these reports after the fact and it’s very hard to follow up on it. When people see a dog chasing wildlife we need to be 100 per cent sure of whose dog it is. If people report it they need an accurate description, and if they can, get a tag off the dog.”
Reports of dogs chasing sheep, deer and other wildlife are a common issue for the conservation service, and Stern is reminding owners to control and keep an eye on their pets.
“Most people don’t intentionally let their dogs do it, they’re almost ignorant to the fact their dogs are doing it and are quite surprised when we show up and advise them of what happened,” Stern says.
The main concern is the welfare of the animal, but Stern adds injured wildlife can run into traffic and cause accidents as well.
He says many people who leave their dogs outside on acreages while they go to work or let their dog out of sight while on a hike might not even be aware their dog is chasing wildlife.
“If your dog disappears and you don’t know where it’s been, if it comes home with blood on its mouth or is panting it’s a good indication it might be chasing wildlife,” Stern says.
If conservation catches a dog in the act, Stern warns the dog could be put down.
“That’s the last thing we want to do,” he says.
Anyone who sees a dog chasing wildlife can call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-727 or file a report online.
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