Pitbulls are no longer considered restricted breeds in the County of Grande Prairie. Council made the decision Monday, as one of several changes to the Animal Control Bylaw that came into effect immediately.
Pit Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Pit Bulls, and Staffordshire Terriers, or dogs with some of those breeds in their mix, were previously restricted under the “vicious dog bylaw” unless they passed a yearly canine good citizen test. Manager of Regional Enforcement Services Stuart Rempel says removing all breed specific references from the bylaw puts more responsibility on dog owners.
“The reality is it’s not the dog, and a lot of these dogs are looked on sideways by people. It’s the dog owners; it’s the irresponsibility of letting the dog run if your dog has a tendency to nip, and I’ve always said a Chihuahua can bite way more than a Pitbull.”
He adds that research has shown smaller dogs tend to bite more frequently, but bites from larger breeds do more damage.
The County will now also allow up to four dogs on a property 10 acres of less, when the previous rule was two. Rempel explains this brings them more in line with the City of Grande Prairie.
“They allow four dogs on a piece of property in the city… so we thought, we’re going to try to bring that number up and, of course, the bylaw has the ability that if there’s a problem or a nuisance, we can go in and deal with it.”
Whether a dog is deemed vicious will be based on either observation by a Peace Officer or an investigation following a complaint, if shows a propensity, disposition, or potential to attack without provocation. It would also qualify if it’s chased, injured, or bitten another animal, livestock or human, damaged or destroyed private or public property, or has been deemed a vicious dog by another jurisdiction.
Other changes made Monday include increasing the minimum penalty for infractions from $50 to $100, banning dogs from school playgrounds and recreational playing fields, and requiring dogs to be safeguarded if riding outside of a vehicle.
“We had an incident just a little over a year ago where one of our RCMP members saw a vehicle turn a corner with a dog in the back and the dog wasn’t secured. It fell out of the back of the vehicle, it sustained significant serious injuries, and it wasn’t the dog’s fault.”
Because there was nothing in the bylaw, the County didn’t have anything with which to charge the owner. Rempel says they knew some of these changes were overdue, but with taking over animal control in 2010 and the regional animal pound with the City in 2016, they wanted to get their feet underneath them first.