The lowdown on leash laws

A new dog control bylaw is restricting leash lengths for dogs in public.
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KELOWNA – A controversial new bylaw that affects every dog owner in the Central Okanagan was adopted by the Regional District Board Monday.

RDCO spokesperson Bruce Smith says the objective of the Responsible Dog Ownership Bylaw, which took effect Monday Feb. 24, is not to punish dog owners, but to ensure dog owners are mindful of those around them.

“Our approach to this is we believe most dog owners are being responsible,” Smith says. “They licence their dog, they keep their dog under their care and control when it’s on and off their property, they leash their dog when it’s off their property, they pick up after their dog and they don’t allow their dog to become a threat or a nuisance. In other words, they’re good neighbours.”

Among the changes, Bylaw No. 1343 grants Animal Control Officers the right to “enter at all reasonable times upon any property” in order to conduct inspections and requires any owner in contravention of the bylaw to produce photo identification upon request. The bylaw also requires owners to have current licences for their animal, to keep fewer than two dogs per household and that all leashes must be 2 m or less in length. Smith says the leash law, although controversial, has worked well in other regions.

“There are many, many municipalities and local governments across the country that identify the leash as two metres or less, including the city of Calgary,” he says. “A two metre or less leash gives a dog owner much more ability to control their dog than the retractable leashes.”

Under the bylaw, retractable leashes can still be used, but they must be locked off at less than 2 m.

Smith is careful to point out the new bylaw does not mean there will be officers on patrol checking licences and measuring leashes.

“It is a complaint-driven thing,” he says. “Most people who are responsible dog owners won’t have a problem with this bylaw.”

Friday, Feb. 28 is the deadline for dog owners to renew their licences for 2014. Renewing after Feb. 28 will result in a $20 late fee, with licence fees costing $20 for a dog that has been spayed or neutered. For dogs not spayed or neutered, the cost is $60. Smith says there are no penalties for licensing after Friday’s deadline.

“Anyone can buy a dog licence at any time,” he says.

If caught, the owner of an unlicensed dog will face a fine of $300. There have been 43 tickets issued in the Central Okanagan for unlicensed dogs in 2014.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.

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