Burnaby council gets tough on vicious dogs, including pit bulls and German shepherds

Dog bites are trending upward in Burnaby.

That's one of the reasons why city council passed a motion last night clearing the way for significantly higher licensing fees on vicious dogs.

A staff report by finance director Denise Jorgenson points out that there were 69 reported bites on other animals and humans in 2007, rising to 81 by 2012.

"Based on data collected until [the] end of May 2013 projected incidents for 2013 are 94," she adds.

Pit bulls account for just two percent of the licensed dogs in the city.

However, they were responsible for 24.7 percent of the bites since 2007 in which the breed could be identified.

Under the Community Charter, anyone affected by the proposed revisions to Burnaby's animal control bylaw has until September 20 to provide written feedback.

Responses will be presented to council before a vote takes place on implementing a new fee structure.

Of the 477 bites since 2007, Jorgenson writes that it was only possible to identify the breed in half of the incidents.

After pit bulls, the second-highest number of bites were by German shepherds, accounting for 14.6 percent of those that could be identified by breed. 

German shepherds account for 5.4 percent of all licensed dogs and 7.3 percent of all dog bites. This includes those attacks in which the breed couldn't be determined.

Jorgenson's report cites Dogsbite.org statistics indicating that 61 percent of U.S. fatalities in 2012 from dog attacks involved pit bulls. This represented 23 of the 38 deaths.

Burnaby, West Vancouver, and Richmond are the only three municipalities with a breed-specific dog bylaw

The Burnaby report proposes a $100 licensing fee on spayed or neutered vicious dogs.

Owners of unalterted vicious dogs would be required to pay a $150 licensing fee.

Fees for spayed or neutered dogs is normally $26; unaltered-dog owners pay a $52 fee.

Jorgenson has also recommended a doubling of impoundment fees for licensed dogs to $50 for the first time, rising to $300 for the third time. Fees would increase to $350 on a third impoundment for unlicensed dogs.

Owners of dogs that show aggression would pay a $200 fine, with $500 to those whose dogs have bitten.

Jorgenson's report is available here.

Comments (22) Add New Comment
Darryl Halse
Let me ask you one simple, unbiased question: How do higher fees prevent dog bites?

Allow me to point out that the person responsible for this report and proposal is FINANCE DIRECTOR Denise Jorgenson. FINANCE. Not animal control, not parks department, FINANCE.

So ask yourself whether this is really about animal welfare and protecting the people of Burnaby from irresponsible pet owners or whether it's just another cash grab from your elected officials.

Absolutely shameful.
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Martin Dunphy
For an earlier examination of Vancouver's failure to enforce its own bylaws to curtail dangerous dogs, go to http://www.straight.com/news/toothless-laws-let-pit-bulls-roam-free.
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J. Bishop
How is increasing licensing fees going to reduce dog bites? Why not have the dogs required to wear muzzles when in public? Why not have all dogs required to wear muzzles in public. As an owner of two non aggressive pit bulls there have been more than one incident where socially challenged dogs ( usually small breeds) have behaved in a way that dogs interpret as aggressive or assertive behaviour. If there was an incident it would be my dogs that would be labelled aggressive purely because of their breed.
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Amanda J
Dogbite.org is biased. The information from that site is complete garbage.
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A RESPONSIBLE dog owner
When will people figure out that the issue ISN'T about specific breeds.. the issues/problems stem from the irresponsible people who neglect to train or care for their dogs properly..THEY (the owners) are the ones that should be banned.. charging them fees they don't pay anyway isn't going to stop anything..
(BTW, Ask any vet where the majority of their bites come from..
The answer? Cocker Spaniels!!!when do those inbred viciously little buggers get banned?)

I bred German Shepherds for over 20 years (retired now)
My philosophy is that ANY dog that bites without just cause (self defense, protection - and even then the situation would be closely analysed before a decision were made) is euthanized. Forget the fines.. put the INDIVIDUAL dog to sleep and don't paint entire breeds with 1 brush..
There are no bad dogs, just bad owners...
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DavidH
@Darryl Halse: Higher fees might prevent a few people from owning unacceptable dogs. But the real solution is to ban their sale and ownership in an urban area (with appropriate "grandfathering").

What the "it's not the dog but the owner" lobby always fails to recognize is that we will NEVER have an opportunity to train, test, license and monitor dog owners. Never. Therefore, complaining about irresponsible owners is pointless.

What we CAN do is stop the sale and new ownership of dogs big enough and strong enough to take down an adult, let alone a child. Such dogs have no place in a city, any more than bears, wolves and cougars are tolerated in a city. Confining big dogs to a city yard and a leash is unfair to both dog and human.

(PS - In rural areas, dogs that attack and injure or kill other animals are routinely shot by other people in the area. No fines, no reprimand - boom. Done. Unfortunately, I don't have the option to pull out a rifle and take care of the problem.)
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Common Sense
It all comes down to "untrained/unsocialized" behaviour (this applies to humans as well) ... Pitbulls & German Shepards can be fantastic, harmless, friendly & lovable companions, just as toy-poodle can be vicious ... irresponsible owners should be reprimanded for sure, but yeah ... this fee is a completely unfounded cash grab.
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DavidH
@Common Sense -- I'll take my chances with a "vicious", ankle-bitting toy poodle. My five-year-old son could have booted one into the next yard. Not so much with a pit bull.

The ego-driven pit bull owners should be assessed a $10,000 annual fee, plus proof of $5 million insurance liability for dog attacks.
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Dog Owner
Hopefully higher fees will deter low-brow idiots from owning these inherently dangerous animals in the first place, which in turn should reduce the number of bites from these two breeds. Other breeds should be on this list too. But this is a good start.

Next: An annual fee to offset costs to the city to clean up dog shit-laden garbage cans in parks, plus generally enforcing by-laws and related fine collections, not to mention an environmental fee to deal with massive waste disposal issues.

For more on this latter issue, see: Number-crunching on dog doo tells woeful tale, by Stephen Hume, http://goo.gl/iy11Mx
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Dog Owner 2
From Martin's article (find the link in his comment above):

“In England, if your dog bites someone, you get a criminal record. It forces people to be somewhat more responsible. Right now [in Vancouver], people are not motivated; there are no real consequences.”

This is where we need be.

And after reading that article, I would add a provincial fee to offset health care costs for dog bite injuries.

Ultimately, the thinking here is that it becomes cost prohibitive for average people to own what is really a luxury item, which in turn should reduce dog bites and general dog over-population concerns.
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I Like DavidH...
...fee proposal too.
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Loki
To DavidH, so if we take your suggestion, there would be no large dogs, only small dogs? And then, what if bad owners start making the small dogs aggressive? Shall we get rid of them too? You see how your logic is flawed, right? There are many irresponsible dog owners out there unfortunately. But, if one breed gets banned/taxed/whatever, these same people will get other breeds and raise them poorly as well. So, like one of the previous commenters said, "don't paint entire breeds with 1 brush.." I think that breeders and shelters should be picky about to whom they sell/give their dogs. Perhaps that would help cut down on the aggression.
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Robin
They cited dogbites? That's pathetic. Anyone who has done their research on pits/bites/dogs knows that this site is filled with media bias.
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Scott Richer
Higher fees, for a greater responsibility. Pit bull dogs have had a long enough history with irresponsible people, Responsible people will follow rules, pay the $, and go the extra mile, irresponsible people won't. That in itself provides authorities the ability to decipher between them, and regulate accordingly. To many incidences involving the dogs with a greater potential, and the varying moral compasses of their owners. This will curb that. That is why this will actually work.
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RUK
This issue is almost as knee jerk as bike lanes! (I say that with love for both bikes and dogs.)

I get that pitties can be wonderful animals. I knew one myself and we were good friends - in fact, she was a complete suck, her only nuisance being the incessant demanding of tummy rubs.

On the other hand, DavidH makes an excellent comparison to having a pet bear or cougar. It might well be alright. Similarly, it might be alright to own unregistered machine guns or hand grenades also.

The dog lobby says "Oh it was the owner's fault," and "there are no dangerous breeds, only dangerous owners," which in one sense is true, but in another, practical sense is crazy talk.

I'm not saying that the existing pitties and alsatians should be taken away and killed. That would be cruel.

But future ownership should be cut off. The existing stock on the CDC Dangerous Breeds list should not be bred, the animals allowed to naturally dwindle in honourable but chaste retirement.

The exception would be animals that have hunting and security functions. I don't think the VPD should be using attack chihuahuas. They should have big, strong dogs bred for combat.

You know, like alsatians and pitties.

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DavidH
@ Loki: Did you miss my point about angle-biting toy poodles?

As a regular citizen, am I really concerned about the aggression of dogs that can easily be "subdued"? Nope. A toy poodle can bite painfully, scratch, tear clothes, frighten ... and then be easily stomped into the dirt. The notion of a small dog knocking me to the ground and ripping my throat out could be the subject of a humorous viral video (eek!).

Yes, in my opinion, the size of dogs SHOULD be limited in urban areas (just as dog size is routinely limited in apartment and strata complexes). This is a reasonable compromise for those who want animal companionship (like I do) and those who expect freedom from serious physical threats (like me).

Trust me - the biker who trains a snarling MinPin to protect his grow-up is not a real concern to me.
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A RESPONSIBLE Dog owner
David H - if your logic held true then there would be a great deal of large dogs living in the bush that otherwise work as service dogs. When is the last time you saw a toy poodle as a seeing eye dog?
Domesticated animals do not need to roam free - what they need is structure, training, companionship and the opportunity to be a contributing member of the family.
As a breeder of purebred German Shepherds I can assure you that reputable breeders screen their potential buyers very closely, provide the new owner with education and life time support to ensure their dog remains healthy and happy (it is NOT a happy healthy dog that bites, I can assure you)I can tell you that I have refused to sell dogs to many people who came looking - and those people do not necessarily mean harm, they are just too ignorant to canine behavior and psychology to be the best owner.Reputable breeders of purebred dogs scrutinize pedigrees, bloodlines and characteristics before breeding a litter. It is our goal to ensure that the dogs we produce WILL be a positive experience - for the dog, the family, the general public.

Sadly, there are too many puppy mills out there producing dogs without an iota of a thought to how the dog will be raised, or by whom. They take their $$$ and never look back. The buyer ends up with a dog of which they have no idea of the dog's genetic background, how to raise, train or even care for the dog. I haven't bred a GSD litter in 5 years.. but I am still supporting buyers of my puppies. I stay in contact with them. I want to make sure any dog I produced remains well, happy and cared for.

Breed specific legislation DOES NOT WORK. It's been tried all over the world - and yet, the problem still exists.

Stop puppy mills, make education about raising dogs readily available, and support purebred dogs breeders who actually know what the hell they are doing. Then we just might get somewhere.
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DavidH
@ RESPONSIBLE dog owner:

- I didn't say that rural dogs need to roam free. Why suggest that? It's silly.
- Nobody is talking about service dogs. That's not even within the realm of the current debate, and equally silly. Service dogs are only pets coincidentally.
- Yes, there are reputable breeders and responsible owners. But as you say, there are also terrible breeders and ignorant owners. Your point is?
- Although regulation of breeders might be fairly "simple", there is no regulation possible to deal with ignorant owners. None. Ain't gonna happen. Never.
- Breed specific legislation can easily work. Ban the sale and ownership, just like we ban the sale and ownership of other things like guns. The problem with ban programs to date is that they don't go far enough, because politicians are weak and dogs are cute.
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Doris Owen
Pit Bulls are not the problem. The problem lies with drug dealers who train them to be vicious. I know of a pit bull who let the family rabbit crawl all over him. When a new dog entered the yard, it danced up and down wanting to play. There were 3 children in the family, including a baby. The dog was a pussycat and friendly with even strangers. We fostered a Staffordshire cross from the pound. It had been kicked out of several homes and had been abused. It got along fine with our dog and was friendly with everyone, although it had never been housebroken. We took care of that problem and taught it several tricks. At the end of our two months fostering period, we advertised it and got it a home that really wanted a nice home loving dog, which it was. The owner took it to the local park every day and it played with all the little dogs and the other owners all loved her too. It is the owners, not the breed of dog. We had a Standard Schnauzer pup and someone said, Oh- those dogs bite! Nonsense. Any dog will bite if it is afraid or abused. Our dog will bark, but will also climb into your lap for lots of pets. The pup that the person was afraid of would go to the nursing home or the hospital and received lots of pets, didn't mind wheelchairs and was particularly good with those that had mental problems. The breed is unimportant. The training is what counts!!!
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Doris Owen
I would like to say that as an elderly citizen, I remember when dogs roamed free and went for walks maybe 20 blocks from home. In those years, I only met 2 dogs that were not friendly. One went after my dog, who was on leash and the other went after me, when I was on my way to work. I kept eye contact and bawled him out like a naughty child. It finally gave me a puzzled look and walked away. Cayotes attack and yet nothing is done about them. Why pick on dogs.Train children in school how to approach dogs and not to trespass on their turf. Dogs do protect and will warn someone off if they get too near their property. Children and adults need to respect dogs, not threaten them and there would be fewer bites reported. I have noticed that people now have more knowledge in how to approach a strange dog, but many still do not have that knowledge. It needs to be taught.
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