A horrific mauling at the waterfront park and the never ending issue of feral animals around the city, has residents talking this week that after a couple of articles in the Daily News drew increased attention to an ongoing problem around the city.
From unleashed dogs wandering the city’s parks and streets to abandoned or wild cats and dogs roaming around the city, the troubles have apparently arrived on the radar of city council.
The Wednesday paper had details on the gruesome attack on the maltese-bicon mix which suffered a number of serious injuries as a result of the attack, both dogs were off leash at the time, a frequent occurrence in the city but one that is none the less in violation of the city’s by law on dog licensing and ownership.
The unfortunate incident came up as council waded into the debate over feral cats and whether there is the need for a ban on certain breeds of dogs in the city.
A solution however may be a costly one for Prince Rupert citizens, with the costs associated with addressing the issue ranging anywhere from $4,000 to $26,000 a year. Ideas that were suggested included trapping sterilizing and releasing or relocating the feral cats, which would cost around$25,000 a year for 100 cats, and would reduce the number of cats over time. There was also an option suggested that the city offer a euthanasia service for the feral cats, which would cost $11,000 a year per 100 cats.
Either option will no doubt provide ammunition for supporters or critics and both we’re sure will be certain to make their opinions heard loud and clear.
Family is stunned after pet is mauled at local park
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Pages one and three
Dog owners and other residents in Prince Rupert were shocked to hear about the death of a beloved family dog after it was attacked by another dog at a popular hang-out.
Wade and Maria Niesh's maltese-bichon-mix, Springer, died after suffering serious injuries from an attack while it was off-leash at the Rotary Waterfront Park on the evening of Sept. 12.
"I've been going to the waterfront for years with my dog, and I'd never encountered anything like that," said Maria Niesh, who was walking Springer and their other dog with her young daughter when the incident happened.
"A lot of dogs there are off the leash, and I've had my dog off the leash, but if there's other dogs around, I'll put him on it, because you just never know."
Niesh was surprised when another dog attacked Springer, as she didn't have any idea it was coming and didn't hear it's owner calling after it.
"It just came out of nowhere so fast, and everything happened so quickly," said Niesh. "We both ran as fast as we could, but it just wasn't fast enough and we couldn't get there in time."
The owner of the attacking dog did phone later and speak to the Nieshes, to express how terrible he felt about what happened and offered to pay for all the expenses involved. At first, Wade and Maria didn't know whether they would only want to pursue a fine for the attack, or request that the offending dog be put down.
"We really didn't know what to do in this kind of situation, and while it would be unfortunate to see dogs dead because of it, it would be horrible to see another dog die or a child involved somehow," said Maria Niesh.
"I did speak with one of the technicians at the vet, and she knew the dog not to be aggressive, but what I saw was aggressive."
A problem that some people in town have is that while it is a truly sad and unfortunate incident, both dogs were off of their leashes, as are many other dogs that people walk in public places around Prince Rupert.
Citizens, including Connie Meisner who witnessed the attack, are concerned about the number of people disregarding by-laws, and allow their dogs to walk off leash.
"It's a public place, and everyone has to think about other people besides their own dog on their own walk," said Meisner.
"I hope the young child is OK, that must have been very traumatic for that child to witness that," said Meisner.
The Nieshs have been getting e-mails from a number of people in town, and even had some flowers sent to them following the attack. Springer was a well known dog throughout the community.
After considering their options during the weekend and talking to other people, the Niesh family decided to request that the other dog be put down.
"We feel bad about the decision, but at the same time, you don't, and everybody I talk to about it thinks that's what should happen," said Niesh. "Nobody wins in this situation and it's unfortunate, but hopefully it'll save another dog in the future."
For dog owners or residents who don't know the City of Prince Rupert's by-laws concerning dog licensing and ownership, they can be found on the City website and they include: "No person owning or having the custody, care or control of any dog shall suffer, permit or allow such animal to run at large within the Municipality." "Run At Large or Running At Large means being elsewhere that on the premises of a person owning or having the custody, care or control of any dog and is not on a leash under the direct and continuous charge of a person who is competent to control said dog," and "Not withstanding Section 1 I , no person having the custody, care or control of any dog shall suffer, permit or allow such animal to enter into a public park unless such animal is leashed at all times and under the direct and continuous charge of a person who is competent to control it.
City wants to reign-in problem cats and dogs
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Council is trying to put a leash on dangerous dogs as well as looking for solutions to the feral cat problem, but they warned answers will cost money.
Doug Jay, the city's corporate administrator, laid out the city's options and the associated costs at the council meeting last week, and they range from $4,000 to $26,000 a year.
"Coun. Ken Cote has been called about dogs and I have been called several times about cats," said Coun. Joy Thorkelson. "There is an issue here and there is a (cat) disease issue."
"The entire animal control bylaw needs to be reviewed and we should do the whole ball of wax," said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.
"We should engage in that dialogue. Where that leads us, I don't know."
The city currently has the ability to deal with complaints about neighbours with noisy chainsaws, but they have few tools in place to deal with dangerous dogs, said Pond.
And while people can keep dogs that scare neighbours, they can't keep rabbits, he noted.
"And without a doubt, we have all heard citizen complaints about dog droppings. It's probably the largest citizen complaint," he said.
City staff outlines a number of ways other cities deal with dangerous dogs and feral cats.
Doug Jay, the city's corporate administrator, said the city could regulate dogs based on sex, size, breed and age. Some municipalities have gone so far as to restrict certain breeds, such as pit bulls and mastiffs, while others require additional leashing, fencing and pre-approved signage warning the public of the dog's presence.
"If someone owns one of these dogs, just to have a fence around your property doesn't do it," said Coun. Ken Cote. "I've heard all kinds of reports and that one up on Fourth West, it's like having a grizzly bear in your back yard. It may be fenced in but no one is comfortable with it."
These types of animals need to be caged in a way so that they don't bother their neighbours, he said.
Coun. Tony Briglio said he disagreed with the idea of labelling a specific breed of dog as dangerous.
"There can be real dangerous dogs that fall through the cracks that aren't on this list."
Under the Community Charter, the city can also approve dog-free zones and empower its animal control officer to seize or impound any dog it believes is likely to kill or injure a person.
When it comes to cats, there are fewer examples of other communities with bylaws, said Jay.
Where there are bylaws, these tend to be licencing, mandatory identification, limits on the number of cats per household, requirements that cats be kept under the control of owners, seizure and impoundment of cats at large and fines and penalties for infractions.
While these options may help alleviate some of the concerns council has received about people with too many cats or cats at large, it doesn't address the city's feral cat problem, he said.
"Unlike domestic cats, the difficulty with feral cats is that there are no owners that can be subjected to regulation via bylaws," he said.
The four common approaches the city found include: first of all trapping feral cats, sterilizing them, vaccinating them and returning them to the wild; secondly trapping them and euthanizing (killing) them; thirdly trapping, sterilizing and relocating them; and fourth, doing nothing.
The first three approaches have the general support of the SPCA, Humane Society of the United States and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association among others.
"The major area of agreement or consensus in dealing with feral cats is that the 'status-quo' of non-intervention is not an option as it generally exposes cats to less than humane conditions and for the potential problems that is poses to both domestic cat populations and the potential of posing a mild health risk to the human populations," said Jay.
The cost of trapping sterilizing and releasing or relocating would be $25,000 a year for 100 cats, and would reduce the number of cats over time through attrition. The option euthanizing is $11,000 a year per 100 cats.
Coun. Ken Cote opposed trapping, sterilizing and re-releasing because of the cost saying: "I would consider doing nothing or wait until we are in a position where our coffers are full"
"No matter which options you choose, someone will be upset," said Coun. Joy Thorkelson.
Jay suggested council explore cat licensing and using funds to support a feral cat program.
"If we allow comment from the public, we might get the public's appetite to have cats regulated," said Coun. Sheila Gordon-Payne.
City staff is expected to bring forward a bylaw at an upcoming council meeting that will be made available for public review before being considered by council.