City of Vancouver dogged by pet-ticketing allegations
Sarah Allan, dog owner and walker, at Guelph Park in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday February 19, 2014. Sarah Allan was confronted by an Animal Control Officer for having her dog off leash. After she refused to accept the fine, the officer followed her home. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is looking into complaints from dog owners that animal control enforcement officers are taking their duties too far in tailing some rule-breakers to their homes.
On Thursday, Robertson stressed the importance that enforcement officers are identifiable in public after an allegation one officer didn’t identify himself. However, he pointed out complaints against off-leash and untagged dogs far outweigh those levied against enforcement officers.
“This case is one I’d be interested in hearing more from staff about,” Robertson said. “We have a lot of complaints incoming — it’s very rare that they’re about an animal control officer.”
Dog owners Murray Richardson and Sarah Allan both said they were confronted by officers — who ended up trying to find them at their homes when they left in a hurry — for off-leash and no-tag offences earlier this month.
Steve Simmonds, the city’s Animal Control Services manager, said it’s extremely rare officers hand out tickets — only about 100 times annually compared to the 30,000 calls received.
In cases where animal owners speak with the officers, it’s likely they’d just receive a warning. But if an owner attempts to flee, the officers might be forced to employ a “last resort” and follow them, he said.
“The part about following people — that would be one of the methods we might have to resort to if people refuse to have a conversation,” Simmonds said, adding the intention is not to harass.
“Our staff would perhaps look for a licence plate number or home address. Generally, our preference would be to speak to people and educate them about the bylaws.”
He pointed to a recent case where an off-leash dog left a boy severely injured when he was bitten in the stomach.
On average, the city gets 600 calls annually for aggressive animal behaviour, including bites.
Additionally, Simmonds said it’s estimated only 20 percent of dogs in the city are properly registered with tags — something crucial to reuniting lost or missing dogs with owners.
He couldn’t comment on the specific allegations, but added the city’s nine officers each have an average of 15 years’ experience and are trained to identify themselves when speaking to the public.