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Nelson council replaces dog ban with leash law

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
February 3rd, 2015

Under a new bylaw passed by council on February 2, dogs will be allowed in Nelson’s downtown provided they are on a leash of six feet in length or less. This will overturn the downtown dog ban that has been in effect since 1989.

The leash area will be larger than the current dog ban area, extending further down Baker to the west and Vernon to the east (see map above.)

The new bylaw provides the following penalties for a first offence within the leash area (with higher fines for subsequent offences):

  • Dog off leash: $150
  • Dog tied, secured, or fastened: $150
  • Failure to remove animal waste: $100

The structure of penalties for violations of the new bylaw will change so that there is, unlike in the current bylaw, an opportunity to dispute a ticket.

Council passed three readings of the new bylaw, which will not come into effect until it is formally adopted at a future meeting.

Councillor Anna Purcell spoke in favour of the bylaw.

“I know dog owners who are in favour of the old dog bylaw. It is divisive. So we have to plan for success, and I feel that this change satisfies a lot of my concerns. This will remind us that the streets of Nelson are for everybody.”

Councillor Robin Cherbo spoke against it. He said it has worked well for 26 years, that half the population agrees with the dog ban, that there will be seniors tripping over leashes, that a young child was once bitten by a dog on Baker, that dogs are even a problem on Granville Street in Vancouver, that there is a question of whether Nelson has the money to hire enough bylaw officers and to buy doggy bag dispensers, that Nelson does not have a dog pound for all the additional dogs, and that he has a photo of a dog tied to a lamp post outside the Dollar Store and that this shows that dog owners will have to tie up their dogs to shop.

“Then there is the issue of health,” he said. “In the sense that even if the dog defecates on the street and owner picks it up, there is still this trace left on the sidewalk.

“Dogs, as we all know, pee everywhere, and it is acidic, which won’t do our metal lamp posts and our electrical fittings any good, as well as the fact that this is unsanitary for young children, and a lot of young children don’t walk all the time, they end up down on the sidewalk all the time.”

Cherbo said people who buy dog licenses should be given an orange leash so bylaw officers can easily identify dogs without a licence.

Purcell responded to Cherbo: “Dogs are allowed pretty much everywhere else in Nelson and it does not seem like this dog-ridden hell where people are tripping over leashes and people are getting bitten and sliding on huge dog turds. No one else in Canada has this sort of rule and it is hard for me to believe we are that much dumber than the citizens of every other city, and this is an invitation for us to show ourselves as the mature, responsible adult dog owners that we know that we can be.”

Councillor Janice Morrison said that for her it is about economic development and tourism.

“The people who come to Nelson are the most vociferous in their letters about not being allowed to have their dog in town. I have heard a lot of business people on Baker saying that we need a new bylaw that has some teeth, because they are losing customers, so there is an economic spin.

“We need to make a move,” she said, “for tourism. We are a tourism town, and I am hearing business people saying it is time to give this a chance.”

Cherbo said the economic issue could cut both ways.

“I have had people come to me and say if dogs are allowed on Baker, they will do their shopping at the mall, where there are no dogs.”

Councillor Cherbo was the only councillor to vote against the new bylaw. Councillor Bob Adams was absent from the meeting. 

The new bylaw, and a second bylaw that deals with penalties, neither of which is in effect yet, are attached below.

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