Some time ago I was reading the Metro Vancouver newspaper and came across an article about a “militant” by-law officer in Vancouver who was allegedly following dog owners to their homes in order to fine them for having their dog off leash or for not having a dog licence. As I read the article I was feeling appropriately indignant on behalf of my fellow dog owners who were (by all accounts) being harassed by this individual.
But then I re-read the article. What I realized on the second reading was that YES, this particular bylaw officer was clearly overzealous (not having witnessed the events myself I’ll leave my judgement at that for now) but the dog owners in question were IN THE WRONG. They either had their dogs off leash where they’re not allowed, or they didn’t have the mandatory dog licence. Rather than facing the music, they tried to avoid the bylaw officer when he approached them by running away and hiding. Now I certainly don’t advocate aggressive behaviour on the part of enforcement officers, but as a dog owner I do recognize that I have to do my part to play by the rules so that dogs and humans can continue to share the city in a positive way.
All that being said, I found myself in a situation this evening where I was caught without my dog licence. The metal ring that the tag came on had bent open which allowed the tag to fall off. Fortunately this happened at home but I hadn’t gotten around to putting it back on Avy`s collar yet. Big oops. So when I ran into an enforcement officer they questioned me about the missing tag. What followed was a very civilized conversation about the weakness of the rings that the tags come on (the bylaw officer`s words not mine) and a recommendation for a better fastening device to re-attach it. I left after reassuring the officer I would re-attach the licence at the first opportunity and everyone was happy.
So why licence your dog? Why is this important? Well first and foremost, it’s the law. When you adopt a dog in the City of Vancouver you do so with the knowledge that the dog comes with a $39 annual fee for the licence. Secondly, the fee’s help fund things like the SPCA, animal education programs and other things like off-leash parks. All key components to a successful dog community. And for my final reason – the risk simply isn’t worth it. The fine for not having a licence is $250 – and this applies to whomever has care of your dog when stopped by a bylaw officer. So if your friend, co-worker or perhaps a service provider has your dog at the time, you are putting them at risk of a fine. It’s just not worth the hassle when the cost of the licence is only $39.
If we want to build a strong dog community in the City we need to comply with the City`s bylaws and contribute to the community by being good stewards. The place to challenge the bylaws is at City Hall – not by arguing with a bylaw officer. Just my 2 cents, but I’d love to hear yours!