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Burnaby council should heed residents' words on animal control bylaw

Dear Editor, I am writing to respond to Council's response to September 23 delegates who addressed a staff report and recommendations regarding breed specific legislation in the City's animal control bylaws.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to respond to Council's response to September 23 delegates who addressed a staff report and recommendations regarding breed specific legislation in the City's animal control bylaws.

It would seem that despite receiving scientific and peer reviewed data and information from academics and legal professionals (both as delegates and letters from the community) regarding the flaws in the data used by staff, the inferences made and the problems inherent in breed specific legislation as a public safety tool, Council continues to rely on unreliable sources of information to justify their anti-pit bull agenda.

Notably, Coun. Pietro Calendino stated although Calgary is being heralded as the city to model in terms of world class animal control polices, according to the Calgary Herald, dog bites in the city have increased in the past five years. Again, it is very concerning that despite being inundated with calls to create policy on raw and accurate data, in addition to explanations on how certain sources of information are biased and/or unreliable for policy decisions, council refers to a media source to support his position.  Please go to the City of Calgary's website that provides data on reports of dog aggression over a 27-year period.  You will see, that while there have been slight increases over the past few years, there has been a steady decline since they removed breed-specific legislation.  And as Delegate Rebeka Breder indicated last night, the increases in reports are likely due to an increase in the population, not an increase in aggressive dog attacks.  This is also the case in Burnaby, as demonstrated by delegate Dr. Anna MacNeil-Allcock's analysis.

Further, Coun. Nick Volkow asked why council had not heard from the SPCA.  It is our understanding that the SPCA was asked to provide a report directly to staff on this matter and it is concerning that Council is not aware of this and that the recommendations provided by the SPCA are not explicitly provided in staff's report.  Instead, staff refer to, a website run by one women whose sole goal is to "exterminate pit bulls." 

Opponents to the city's response to dealing with vicious dogs continue to point out that the city's own animal control contractor, the B.C. SPCA has a public position statement against breed-specific legislation.  When Breder reminded council that the B.C. SPCA is a well-respected animal control agency and encouraged council to refer to this statement, Volkow response was, "a few years ago, a lot of people had a problem with the B.C. SPCA and today, there are people who would still disagree with you". To hear a city councillor insinuate that the B.C. SPCA's (and their animal control contractor) position on breed-specific legislation might be called into question because "not everyone would agree they are well respected" was perhaps, one of the most shocking statements I have heard.  One would (and should) assume that the organization who holds a city contract to ensure public safety would be well respected and well regarded by those the lead our city.  It would seem, that these statements were made more so to find flaws in anti breed-specific legislation positions, then to criticize the B.C. SPCA.  However, a very insulting inference was made.

Finally, despite the request for public feedback and delegations, it would seem that council has made up their mind, as Mayor Derek Corrigan stated that the issue was not whether they were going to remove breed-specific legislation, because they were not, but whether they would approve these new recommendations.

How is it you can ignore the copious amount of objective scientific data that unequivocally finds breed-specific legislation to be an ineffective method of animal control and public safety?  Further, if the bottom line is economics, April Fahr, executive director of HugaABull Advocacy and Rescue Society provided very clear and well-supported data that demonstrates how breed-specific legislation costs the city more money.

As we anticipate staff's report regarding the issue of pet sales and whether they will recommend a ban, we are left feeling deflated, ignored and not hopeful that genuine research was done to inform staff and Council of the issue to make an informed decision.

Mayor and council, we call upon you to listen to the data.  Listen to what the vast majority of residents want.  Look at what cities across the world are doing.  Burnaby is a progressive city is so many ways, it is time to move its response to animal control and animal welfare out of the dark ages

Kathy Powelson
Paws for Hope, executive director