In a town with a population of 13,116 (2001 census of permanent and non-permanent residents) there are about 600 registered dogs. In 2001 there was about $30,000 in revenue collected from dog licenses. It is probable that there are more than 600 dogs since not all may be registered and visitors will also bring dogs.
With approximately 5,500 dwelling units (an average of 2.4 persons per household) it can be estimated that over 10% of households include a dog.
Some people see these numbers as a problem: the repeated issue quoted is failure to clean-up after a dog, and some concerns are also raised about dogs running loose. Another view of the numbers is that the population of Canmore has a strong interest in dogs and hence the Town should take special steps to ensure that this legitimate interest is supported and provided with facilities.
The recent Animal Control Bylaw increases the number of offences under which dog companions can be charged and fined. At a public hearing a number of concerns were raised by the public, some of which were addressed by amendments to the Bylaw at its second and third readings. The tone of the Bylaw was not changed however: it remains fixated on animals as a problem and fails to consider their importance in the life of citizens.
The Bylaw offers no benefits for registration to dog companions: people registering cats voluntarily are assured that the Town will use the information provided to try to ensure the return of a straying cat to its registrant. For dogs there is no such provision.
The Bylaw does not directly address the real issue, namely that of people failing to pick up: instead it creates barriers to try to dissuade people from enjoying the companionship of dogs. This is entirely inappropriate.
As one benefit from the public input the Town is considering whether additional off-leash areas can be provided. It would help the Town’s planning process if dog companions offered some criteria for where off-leash areas should be located, how many should be provided and how large they should be. A reasonable criterion is that an off-leash area should be located within 10 minutes walk of any person’s home.
Canmore Dog Companion Association (CDCA) is being formed to put forward positive ideas and to encourage the Town to reconsider its divisive and ill-considered bylaw. The CDCA also has some ongoing intentions which are expressed in its mission. As a start a list of people who feel that they are in broad agreement with the ideas expressed in this newsletter is being formed. Call up, or email up and join the list.