Friday, December 14, 2007

More barking to come before pet bylaws to be introduced

The controversial bylaw regarding dogs in Prince Rupert is still stuck in the system of the city’s bureaucratic layers, as city staff try to come up with a program that will be acceptable to all.

The topic however is still high on the mind of Prince Rupert residents who continue to share their thoughts with city councilors, so much so that Councillor Thorkelson is of the opinion that a discussion paper may be need to guide city staff on their duties, a paper that she believes should include feedback from local residents.

Mayor Pond called the debate in council chambers over dogs one of the “most memorable moments” of the past year in council.

This sadly seems to explain the state of the city these days. Sure there may be failing infrastructure all around, double counted millions of dollars no longer available to the city, a need to once again tax the remaining residents of the town, questions over the city owned telecommunications company and an ever expanding collection of empty store fronts along Third Avenue.

But in the eyes of council, the dog debate is the most memorable event of the year!

It kind of makes you wonder if they see the big picture over on Third Avenue some days.

The contentious dog bylaw issue was examined in Thursday’s Daily News as the front page story of the day.

City staff working on suggestions but council may invite more public input
By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Pages one and three

The bylaw that’s going to the dogs isn’t quite ready yet, and city staff has requested more time to put the finishing touches on the revamped and sometimes controversial dog bylaw.

That said, the topic still came up at Monday night’s city council meeting.

Coun. Joy Thorkelson suggested that instead of trying to come up with a revised dog bylaw that will more than likely still cause controversy, that it might be an idea to put together a discussion paper instead with feedback from the community.

“I’m just wondering if it would be a lot easier on our nerves,” she said. “If we did that instead of a bylaw… it’s very difficult to change a bylaw after a third reading.”

For example, at the meeting, a report was presented by the Boulevard Transportation Group regarding parking in Prince Rupert (see Friday’s Daily News for full story). The recommendations from that report along with suggestions from the local Parking Advisory Task Force, will then be used to help city staff come up with appropriate future bylaws regarding parking.

Thorkelson suggested the city try a similar idea when it comes to animal control bylaws.

“Like the parking, we have a discussion paper, and now we can build a bylaw from that,” she said. “You bring another bylaw, and we could have the same reaction as last time.”

Mayor Herb Pond agreed with Thorkelson, and suggested this could very well be what takes place with the cat bylaw, but that the dog bylaw is almost complete, and will be ready for full discussion and a potential vote at the next city council meeting, set for Mon. Jan 14.

“The bylaw provoked a lot of people, but that’s a good thing,” he said.

“And I agree with you that discussions around the concepts are easier… but the dog bylaw can probably come back. It might not hurt to have discussions about the cats and exotic animals.”

That said, he reminded council that he believed the open discussions regarding the issue, when many members of the public took the time to speak their mind, was one of the “most memorable moments” of the past year inside council chambers.

Chief Administrative Officer Gord Howie said that a full report will accompany the revised dog bylaw come Jan. 14.

“We had hoped to have it here by this meeting,” he said. “We’re also working on a report to accompany the bylaw with pros and cons and additional information.”

Thorkelson added that a discussion paper from the get-go might have been the way to go, considering how the original animal bylaw has now basically been discarded, as the city splits it into two- a separate bylaw for dogs, and another eventual bylaw for cats.

“What a lot of work was put into something that was just tossed,” she said. “It may have been the highlight of the year if it was based on ratings… but it also caused a lot of angst.

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