Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Still discriminatory

From Castlegar News


As you’ll read on page 9 of this edition of the Castlegar News, city council’s decision to maintain breed-specific dog licensing fees was at least partly based on the argument that the bylaw is working. After all, when was the last time you heard of a pit bull or Staffordshire terrier attack in Castlegar?
Since the bylaw “isn’t broken,” as Coun. Russ Hearne put it, council decided there was no immediate need to fix it, outside of trying harder to actually enforce the licensing rules, which are currently being widely if not universally flouted.
This is a small improvement over the status quo, provided bylaw officers follow through on their marching orders from council, which won’t be a particularly easy task. But we would rather have seen council address the inherently discriminatory nature of this bylaw.
Instead, councillors acknowledged that the rules are unfair to responsible dog owners who happen to have one of these particular breeds, but essentially said the ends justify the means.
“I know there are responsible dog owners,” Coun. Gord Turner said, “but we decided for the few incidents that may occur, we wanted to take a firm stand on it.”
Easy to say if you’re not one of the responsible dog owners facing a $1,000 annual fee to license your pet, whether or not it is actually a vicious animal.
But how, exactly, do we know the bylaw is working? It’s not like before the $1,000 fee existed, Castlegar was experiencing a rash of pit bull attacks. Coun. Kirk Duff, who was also a member of the council that created the bylaw back in 2001, said that at that time the rules were meant to be a “pre-emptive strike,” as there had been a problem with pit bulls elsewhere in B.C. but not here specifically. The fact that there still haven’t been any attacks is a good thing but it’s far from definitive proof of the bylaw’s effectiveness, especially given the lack of enforcement.
If council is going to use the ends-justify-the-means argument, there should be more evidence that the bylaw is actually achieving its ends.

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