City could limit ban on dog breeds

Winnipeg’s decades-long ban on certain breeds of dogs may be nearing an end.

Winnipeg Animal Services is proposing to remove the ban on specific breeds, pending council approval. The Responsible Pet Ownership Regulations would add new rules for owners of risky and dangerous dogs, shifting the focus from breed to behavior.

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

During public consultations, Gordon said the vast majority of city residents support a “race-neutral approach.” This would eliminate the prohibitions board added in 1990, which prevents American pit bulls, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and their predominant mixes 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 match the so-called appearance…You can’t target appearance, you have to target behavior,” said Jane Olijnek, Founder of End Breed Specific Legislation Manitoba. .

Dog attacks have made local headlines in recent years, including dogs belonging to the banned breeds.

In 2020, four dogs were involved in a vicious attack outside the Capri motel, leaving two people with life-altering 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 canine daycare — an animal the city later called a “dangerous dog.”

If council approves, the city’s new priority will be to tackle “irresponsible pet owners,” Gordon said. With a new category for “at risk” pets, the city plans to work with owners to prevent their canines from being deemed dangerous.

A civic report indicates that a dog may be considered at risk when it has: run loose or chased someone more than twice; bit another animal or human more than once; been impounded in an animal shelter more than once; received a lack of veterinary care for medical issues; and/or has been subjected to unsanitary confinement.

Gordon said the city would suggest measures to those homeowners to avoid problems. If the dog still ends up being considered dangerous, new rules could be imposed on it.

Owners of dangerous dogs would be required to harness and train their pets, while keeping them out of dog daycare centers and off-leash areas, with $500 fines for those who break the rules.

Failure to meet the requirements of a dangerous dog designation would result in the animal’s seizure and placement or euthanasia.

A person could also be temporarily or permanently banned from owning additional animals, if their pet is deemed to be at risk, dangerous or in need of protection.

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

Com. Sherri Rollins, who leads the committee, said removing the appeal option would match what’s in place in most other cities.

Rollins plans to support the changes, which she says would help prevent animal attacks and euthanasia.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s a settlement that will prevent animal deaths,” she said.

Meanwhile, a few Winnipeggers may also have the opportunity to keep backyard chickens. Animal Services is proposing a two-year urban chicken farming pilot project, which would begin in the spring of 2023.

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

“We’re a community that has a lot of farm roads…I think every (Councilman has) neighborhood residents who are interested in raising chickens,” Rollins said.

Additionally, hotly contested ideas to restrict exotic pets are still being debated.

The city has sought comment on a ban on keeping many types of birds, fish and reptiles as pets last summer, as well as new limits on the number of pets per household. City staff would like a one-year extension to update this part of the by-law.

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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 a reporter at City Hall for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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