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City could curb ban on dog breeds

The end of Winnipeg’s decades-long ban on some dog breeds could be near.

Winnipeg Animal Services is proposing to remove the ban on specific breeds, pending council approval. The responsible pet ownership statute would add new rules for owners of dangerous and at-risk dogs, shifting the focus from breed to behavior.

“We believe that people can successfully own all different types of dogs… (But) it’s critical… that they do absolutely everything they can to be responsible pet owners to ensure those dogs have little to no impact (negative ) in the community. said Leland Gordon, general manager of animal services.

During public consultations, Gordon said the vast majority of city residents supported a “race-neutral approach.” That would remove bans the council added in 1990, which prevent American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and predominant mixes thereof from being allowed as pets in its jurisdiction.

An advocate who fought to end the bans said the proposed change would help the city of Winnipeg focus on dangerous canine behavior, rather than genetic background.

“By targeting breeds, you’re missing out on dangerous dogs that just don’t fit the so-called appearance… You can’t focus on appearance, you have to focus on behavior,” said Jane Olijnek, founder of End Breed Specific Legislation Manitoba. .

Dog attacks have generated local headlines in recent years, including canines being included in banned breeds.

In 2020, four dogs were involved in a vicious attack outside the Capri Motel, leaving two people with life-changing injuries. At least three of the animals were American Pit Bull Terriers.

In 2021, a licensed Siberian husky fatally attacked two small dogs at a doggy daycare, an animal the city later labeled a “dangerous dog.”

If approved by the council, the city’s new focus will be on addressing “irresponsible pet owners,” Gordon said. Through a new category for “at risk” pets, the city plans to work with owners to prevent their canines from being considered dangerous.

A civic report notes that a dog could be considered at risk when: it has run loose or chased someone more than twice; bit another animal or human more than once; been seized at an animal shelter more than once; has received a lack of veterinary attention due to medical problems; and/or has been subjected to insanitary confinement.

Gordon said the city would suggest steps for these homeowners to avoid problems. If the dog is still considered dangerous, new rules could be imposed on it.

Owners of dangerous dogs will be required to harness and train their pets, keeping them out of doggy day care and off-leash areas, with $500 fines for those who break the rules.

Failure to comply with the requirements of the dangerous dog designation would result in the animal being seized and relocated or euthanized.

A person may also be temporarily or permanently prohibited from keeping additional animals if their pet is deemed at risk, dangerous, or in need of protection.

Owners of dangerous dogs, as stated by animal services, will no longer be able to appeal the designation to the council’s protection committee. A city report notes that elected officials have not revoked a single dangerous dog designation in the past 18 years.

Count Sherri Rollins, who heads the committee, said eliminating the appeal option would match what exists in most other cities.

Rollins plans to support the changes, which he hopes will help prevent animal attacks and euthanasia.

“At the end of the day, I think this is an ordinance that will prevent the deaths of animals,” he said.

Meanwhile, some Winnipeggers might also have the option of keeping backyard chickens. Animal Services is proposing a two-year pilot project on urban chicken farming, to begin in the spring of 2023.

This would allow select residents to keep a small flock of up to four chickens (no roosters), with set rules for coops, fencing, cleaning, heating/insulation, and random inspections, if the current plan is approved as is.

“We’re a community that has a lot of farm routes… I think each and every (city council member) has residents of the district who are interested in raising chickens,” Rollins said.

Also, highly controversial ideas to restrict exotic pets are still up for debate.

The city requested comment on last summer’s ban on keeping many types of birds, fish and reptiles as pets, along with new limits on the number of pets per household. City staff wants a one-year extension to update that part of the statute.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves telling the stories of this city, especially when it comes to politics. Joyanne became the town hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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