KELOWNA - Just one year after introducing tougher dog control measures and a stiff fine for unlicensed dogs, the regional district is reporting big success in persuading people to legalize their pets.
Bruce Smith, communications officer for the Central Okanagan Regional District, said the number of licensed dogs is now just shy of 20,000, up from 14,000 before the district began the licensing drive with an amnesty program in 2013.
Key to the improved compliance, Smith said, is the $300 fine for people who ignore the bylaw, up from $100 before the responsible dog ownership rules came into effect.
“It seems to be working,” he said. “The previous regional board wanted to get the message across and I think it has.”
Smith said the regional district gave out a similar amount of bylaw infraction tickets in 2014 — about 500 — but made more money off them, while a turnaround at the dog pound saw 75 per cent of dogs come in with licenses as opposed to 75 per cent without the year before.
“This makes it much easier to reunite them with the owner when it comes in with a tag,” Smith said.
Success as measured by some other goals was less clear. Smith said the regional district recorded 350 aggressive and dangerous dog complaints in 2013 and a similar number in 2014.
But refinements in the reporting and recording of dog complaints by dog control officers meant just 161 of the 340 complaints reported last year stayed in that catagory when fully investigated, Smith added, and of those, just 12 resulted in consent orders where the owner had to comply with court-ordered animal control.
“What would happen is that the officer would get there and there would be no actual bite or aggression,” he said. “Before, they just recorded the nature of the complaint which means we would have to go back through all those reports to see how they were concluded.”
Smith said the regional district will use the data from this first year to more fully measure the successes, although he noted the surge in licensing already means the new dog bylaw is being noticed, which was one of the desired outcomes.
“The goal has always been ro reduce the number of nuisance dog complaints and serious dog incidents,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, we are dealing with human nature and there is still incidents where people don’t do the responsible thing, although I think the message is getting out. Dog ownership is a choice, not a right, and it has responsibilities.”
Dog owners have until Feb. 28 to renew the license for their animals. Spayed and neutered dogs cost $20, while all others are $60.
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