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City looks to tackle ‘nuisance animals’

The City of Thunder Bay is looking to impose stiffer penalties for owners whose pets repeatedly engage in behaviours like biting or defecating on others' property.
City of Thunder Bay's bylaw enforcement division secured new vehicles in 2022. (Submitted photo)

THUNDER BAY – A proposal to add stiffer penalties for “nuisance animals” has won approval in principal from Thunder Bay’s city council.

On Monday, council reviewed proposed amendments to the city’s animal bylaw that would define a new term of “nuisance animal” and set out penalties for owners whose pets repeatedly do any of the following:

  • “Unreasonably interfere” with the use and enjoyment of another person’s property
  • Are found on school property during school hours when students are outside
  • Defecate on lands other than the owner’s
  • Chase, bite, threaten, or attack a person or another animal
  • Act “in an aggressive and targeted manner” that causes a person to fear for their personal safety

In a report, city licensing and enforcement manager Doug Vincent pointed to “a high volume of repetitive calls-for-service involving a relatively low number of specific animals” in recent years, though the report does not reference any statistics.

That has included “a concerning number of public safety related issues” mostly involving “multiple large and aggressive dogs [that] are routinely permitted to leave the owner’s property,” the report states.

“We have numerous occasions where the owners of a dog – mostly dogs, but we actually had a cat last week – where the owners continually fail to secure their animals, and it’s a repeat, repeat, repeat offense,” Vincent told council.

In an interview, Vincent said some of those incidents had resulted in serious injury.

He speculated the increase in incidents in recent years likely stem from a rise in pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some of the issues covered under the nuisance animals clause could already be ticketed under offences like “running-at-large,” Vincent said a nuisance offence would signal to the courts that stronger penalties are required.

The exact amount of those fines will be set by the courts, he said, based on a submission from the city. The amount is likely to be more than the current fine for running at large of around $200 , but fall short of the cap of $1,000, he indicated.

"This is a tool we're hoping the public will recognize that they need to control their animals and not allow them to become a nuisance," Vincent said.

Vincent added the nuisance offence could also prompt hearings under the Dog Owner Liability Act, in which the city “can seek court orders for greater control or destruction, when appropriate.”

The offence would apply only to repeat offenders, and officers would use their discretion to ticket only owners who showed disregard for the rules, Vincent suggested.

In the case of “somebody who just, their dog got away and is running at large – we may or may not issue a ticket, we may give out a warning.”

Council is set to consider approving the proposed bylaw amendment next week, on Sept. 25.

Residents who have unaddressed concerns about uncontrolled animals can contact Municipal Enforcement Services at (807) 577-6536.

This article has been updated with comment from licensing and enforcement manager Doug Vincent.

Ian Kaufman

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