The Town of Stellarton will not be putting any breed-specific restrictions on dogs, says Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray.
The mayor said that the version of the new dog bylaw which was posted online and has caused considerable uproar this week was an early version that was not approved by the police commission or the council. He said the police commission, which is made up of the mayor and two councillors as well as people from the community, had already decided to remove breed-specific language from the bylaw before it was forwarded to council.
“We apologize for posting the wrong version,” he said, adding that they were aware of the concerns of placing restrictions on specific breeds before it was ever presented to council.
Coun. Bryan Knight said he was shocked when he heard references to breed restrictions from people in the community because he also sits on the Stellarton police commission and had been part of the debates over what should and shouldn’t be included.
“It was redone three or four times,” he said. “The pit bull thing was never supposed to be in there.”
The draft would have required pit bull type dogs to be muzzled at all times while out in public.
Stellarton has since updated their website to include the proper draft of the bylaw.
Stellarton began looking at revising their dog bylaw after a dog attack in Valley Woods in August 2016, prior to the current council taking office.
Residents with concerns about the bylaw will still have an opportunity to voice questions or concerns at the second reading, scheduled for April 23, 5:30 p.m.
Before it was updated online, the draft of the bylaw posted was widely circulated and drew the ire of some.
“Breed Specific Laws are a disgusting show of ignorance by any government, with no basis in science,” wrote one person on Facebook. “…I'm outraged and appalled that this has even been considered by the Town of Stellarton, way to show your backwards thinking and outrage your constituents and dog lovers everywhere.”
Another Facebook user wrote: “Come on seriously? Remember the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover?’ We don’t punish all adults because one or two made a bad decision, so why is it different for these beautiful animals? If the animal is brought up properly then it does not become vicious. It’s all in the way they are trained. Don’t fault the animal for its owner’s choices. Just like we don’t fault a child for its parents’ choices.”
Stellarton and Westville police chief Don Hussher has studied best practices in dog bylaws and wrote a report in the past on the subject for the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.
He had helped create the bylaw for the Town of Stellarton and agrees that breed-specific restrictions aren’t necessary.
“It all comes down to responsible dog ownership,” he said.
Some dogs may have a more natural inclination toward aggression because they were bred to be more aggressive for various reasons, but any dog if trained properly can become very good pets, he said. On the other hand, if a dog is neglected, tied up for extended periods of time or not properly socialized, they can tend to become more aggressive.
He said when creating a draft bylaw for Stellarton, they included sections from other bylaws in other towns including those that have breed restrictions to see if there was interest among council for that.
“It wasn’t something that we thought would be highly recommended,” he said, adding that, as expected, it was removed early on.