Vancouver councillors push for changes to city’s aggressive dog bylaw

Two Vancouver city councillors are making a move to change the bylaw for aggressive dogs, hoping to introduce an appeal process that would consider the potential to rehabilitate such animals. 

Councillors Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe will table a motion Tuesday that argues the current aggressive dog designation “is a detriment to both animal welfare and the long-term assurance of public safety.”

The motion proposes allowing aggressive dogs to go through rigorous training and a behavioural modification process so their status can be reevaluated by the animal control authority.

The Vancouver Charter currently authorizes animal control officers to designate a dog as dangerous at their discretion, and can accordingly ask the court to order the dog destroyed. There is no move to change the “dangerous dog” designation at this time. 

The city’s animal bylaw also gives these officers power to designate a dog as aggressive, meaning the canine has to be muzzled and have restricted socialization for its lifetime. This is the designation Fry and Wiebe hope to change. 

Coun. Pete Fry wants dogs with an ‘aggressive’ designation to be given a chance at rehabilitation. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Antiquated by-law

Fry drew on his personal dog-training experience when he spoke on CBC’s The Early Edition. His canine companion was adopted and returned twice before Fry adopted the animal, and used to have reactive aggression issues, including biting other dogs.

“With the advice of my vet, [we] met with a behaviourist who helped us understand that it was reactive aggression and that it was coming from a place of fear and past trauma. We worked on it and got her to a point where I could call her off with a simple word,” he told host Stephen Quinn.

Fry said the existing animal control bylaw is based on outdated thinking and needs to change.

“Since that time we’ve had an entire field come out around animal behaviour and looking at how better to interact and train animals to be more appropriate companions in an urban setting.”

Should the motion be passed, council will direct city staff to amend the animal control bylaw based on existing equivalents in other jurisdictions such as New Westminster, Coquitlam and Fraser Valley Regional District. 

To hear the complete interview with Pete Fry on The Early Edition, tap the audio link below:

Councillor Pete Fry speaks with Stephen Quinn about giving dogs that go on the dangerous dog registry a second chance. 7:24

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