Ongoing dog problem puts bylaw to the test

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
July 4th, 2013

During the June 24th council meeting’s public input period, Roland Proctor came forward to explain a situation that ended up with one of his dogs down at the Trail SPCA, and with him owing two thousand dollars in fines in order to get the dog back.  He was also requesting that council waive the fines based on the interpretation that it was a misuse of the bylaw, and his financial situation was such that he could not pay the fines.

“That’s an abuse of that bylaw.  It is not meant for dogs who run away,” he said.

Proctor explained that one of his two dogs, Charlie, was off-leash on a walk on Centennial trail, when the animal suddenly took off up Monte Christo.  

“It was probably a bear, because I heard some crashing,” he said.  After waiting for Charlie to return, Proctor went looking for him.  Later, he received a call from the city, telling him Charlie had been picked up and was at the SPCA in Trail.  He was also informed that, in order to get Charlie back, he must pay two thousand dollars in outstanding fines.  

“I didn’t let Charlie out,” Proctor said.  “He took off, and he’s been doing this ever since I got him, but it’s about progress.  I don’t have perfection yet, but I will, if I can have him back.”

Council does not debate during public input period, so discussion was shelved for a special meeting of council on June 27th. At that meeting, Deputy CAO Tracey Butler updated council on the situation.  

“Charlie was found wandering on Columbia Avenue, and was taken down to the SPCA,” she said.  “There are outstanding fines on those dogs for two past incidents which involved cat attacks.”  Those fines total twenty-one hundred dollars.  After the last incident, the city deemed both dogs ‘dangerous’.

The SPCA ran some tests, and has decided that Charlie is not dangerous, but the other dog is.  They suggest the other dog is the instigator in these incidents.  The SPCA also respects the city’s designations of ‘dangerous dogs’ when they are together.  

However, this is not the first incident involving Proctor and his dogs.

“These dogs are the number one offenders in our community, and we’ve gone to great lengths to explain to him (Proctor) the necessity of keeping his dogs with him at all times, or on his property, but to no avail,” said Butler.

There was concern expressed by all councillors that the integrity of the bylaw needed to be upheld, while still showing empathy for specific situations.  The idea of “we have a bylaw for a reason” was expressed around the table.

“My heart goes out to the situation,” said Councillor Jill Spearn.  “But at the same time, he has verbally been told many times that his dogs need to be cared for properly.  If we let him off, no pun intended, but there’s no bite in the bylaw.”

“I don’t see forgiving the fines as an option,” said Mayor Greg Granstrom. “Perhaps there is a way that the fines stay, and there is a payment plan.  As it has been said, we have a bylaw for a reason, and we can enforce the bylaw while still having a bit of empathy.”  These sentiments were echoed by Spearn.

Councillor Kathy Wallace made a motion that the dog be released and a payment plan be set up, contingent on the fact that if there are any more incidents, this leniency is off the table.

Councillor Kathy Moore raised concerns over preventative measures.  “I don’t think we’re solving anything here; these dogs are going to be back on the streets, chasing cats, and I don’t believe that anything is going to change,” she said.  To which Granstrom replied, “What we are doing, by this motion, is respecting the bylaw and making these fines payable.”

After 30 minutes of discussion by council, during which a number of different options were discussed, agreement was finally reached.  The motion passed which saw that Charlie be released to Mr. Proctor, a payment plan of 100 dollars a month be set up to pay back the fines being owed, and a letter of understanding be drafted, which outlines that any other infraction will result in the full money being owed immediately.

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