Lacombe passes Responsible Animal Ownership Bylaw

Feral cats swarm the deck of a residential home northwest of Lacombe near Gull Lake. More than 20 cats were on the premises as the area is a dumping ground for unwanted pets, who then breed and multiply. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The City of Lacombe is now officially enforcing their version of responsible animal ownership.

On Monday, council unanimously passed the Responsible Animal Ownership Bylaw, outlying rules and guidelines for pet parents and guardians in the community, including the licensing of both cats and dogs, and fines for those deemed to be a “nuisance.”

While the bylaw itself was passed unanimously, it wasn’t without debate over reinstating tattoos as an identification option for pet owners to receive a licence fee reduction when registering their pets.

During their last meeting, council voted 6-1 in favour of its removal, but it was brought back once more as two different schools of thought on what should drive their decision clashed: the overarching principle of identification, or concern with how long it may take bylaw to check for tattoos.

“I think the overall idea here is that we’re looking for some way to identify the animal,” said Coun. Thalia Hibbs, who asked council to reconsider the decision.

“A lot of pets, particularly those done awhile ago, would have tattoos and it seems rather onerous to expect somebody to go in and now microchip instead because the identification they had – which is commonly accepted – is no longer acceptable simply because there might be a slight delay in access to information.”

Tattoos are recognized as an identification method by all veterinarians across the province, with each given a unique code so tattooed animals can be traced back to both the clinic, and its owner. It is an accepted method for the identification of cats and dogs in both the City of Calgary and City of Edmonton, and while both give licence fee reductions for spaying and neutering, unlike Lacombe, they do not hinder on microchipping or tattooing.

Both Coun. Cora Hoekstra, who was the lone member of council who voted against the removal of tattooing as an option, and Coun. Reuben Konnik agreed.

Mayor Grant Creasey, however, reiterated the removal was brought forward to make identification easier for city employees.

“Myself, I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to expect (staff) to examine an animal for the possibility of the existence of a tattoo,” he said. “To have two systems in unrealistic because it just creates confusion and difficulty…Given we’re rewarding (pet owners) fairly well for the cost of it on a one-time basis, I don’t see it as being too onerous.”

Coun. Chris Ross also  said tattooing shouldn’t be included for similar reasons.

“I think you have to respect when you have an animal in distress that is being dealt with by a bylaw member that is a complete stranger….locating a tattoo… is going to be rather inconvenient for bylaw versus a chip that’s going to be scanned from a fairly reasonable distance,” he said. “I don’t support the tattoo and I think later in time you could see tattoos not even supported.”

Ross also said the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) wasn’t supportive of tattoos, citing news articles released Feb. 25 on their call to ban declawing and other medically unnecessary practices for pets.

However, as per Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Matthew Goudy and articles published on the decision, the tattoo ban was solely for tattoos of the aesthetic kind, and not tattoos for identification purposes.

Council voted 3-3 against the reinstatement of tattoos as an option, with Creasey, Ross and Gullekson voting against. Hibbs, Hoekstra and Konnik were in favour. Coun. Jonathan Jacobson was absent.

With the bylaw now passed, it is in effect for all new animals, and dogs previously registered will be transitioned to a lifetime licence provided owner can provide proof of alteration and microchipping. If there is no alteration or microchipping, the owner will be asked to pay the difference with the new licence fee structure as laid out in the bylaw.

Those needing to licence their dogs this year, will now be under the new bylaw and its fees, however, the enforcement of cat licensing will not go into effect until 2020 to allow for owners to get their cats spayed or neutered and microchipped.

Licence fees are as follows:

  • Unaltered and not microchipped: $150
  • Unaltered and microchipped: $75
  • Altered and not microchipped: $75
  • Altered and microchipped: $15
  • Service animals, with proof of certificate: free
  • Nuisance Animal Licence (annual): $100
  • Vicious Animal Licence (annual): $150
  • Replacement of lost tags: $5
  • Urban Hen licence: $50

Urban hens, bees and livestock are also included in the bylaw, which can be viewed on the City of Lacombe website at lacombe.ca/home/showdocument?id=11708.

abarrett@postmedia.com

Twitter: Ashli_28

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