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First reading passed on Westlock County's responsible animal ownership bylaw

Public feedback sought at two open houses being held tonight, June 18 and Thursday, June 20

WESTLOCK — With the idea of gathering further feedback on the bylaw at two open houses this week, Westlock County councillors passed first reading on the new “responsible animal ownership”bylaw at their June 11 meeting. 

While the bylaw is very detailed, one of the more notable parts is a limit of two dogs for every resident of a hamlet, summer village or residential subdivision within the county. 

Certain exceptions apply, such as if a person owns multiple puppies under the age of four months or if the dogs are owned by a not-for-profit organization.

The bylaw also requires every person who resides within a hamlet, summer village or residential subdivision to apply for a licence within 15 days of becoming the owner of a dog or taking up residence in the county. 

The proposed bylaw, which is intended to replace the county’s outdated dog bylaw, was first reviewed by county councillors at their May 14 committee of the whole meeting. 

Since then, administration has made a number of small revisions, such as adding a section that includes provisions requiring owners of “vicious” dogs to carry liability insurance. 

Chief administrative officer Tony Kulbisky said the idea was to only pass first reading at the June 11 meeting and then get more feedback from residents at the county’s two open houses this week. 

The open houses will be held at the Pembina Heights Community Hall today, June 18 and at the Pickardville Community Hall on Thursday, June 20, from 5-7 p.m. 

Once residents have weighed in on the bylaw, it can be brought back to a future committee of the whole meeting, where council can talk about what was heard and make more revisions as needed. 

Deputy reeve Ray Marquette questioned why the county would allow for the licencing of “vicious” dogs (ie. dogs that have a known propensity to threaten, attack, harass, chase or bite other animals and humans, and which may be the subject of a court order). 

“There shouldn’t be a licence for a vicious dog,” he said. 

Kulbisky pointed out the high yearly licencing rates for owning vicious dogs — $250 for neutered/spaced vicious dog and $500 for each unaltered vicious dog. These come in addition to the liability insurance requirements around owning vicious dogs, which put the onus on the owner if an incident were to occur. 

“Why anyone would want to own a vicious dog, I don’t know ... but there are people that do,” he said. 

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