Dog, cat sales ban doesn't fix problem: councillors
New Westminster council has banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores but not without some dissent.
Couns. Chuck Puchmayr, who along with Coun. Jaimie McEvoy voted against the ban at Monday's council meeting, believes there is a better way to deal with selling animals bred in puppy mills and raised in deplorable conditions.
Animal rights groups had approached council about implementing the ban, although a report to council Monday noted of the three pet supply stores in New Westminster, two do not sell pets while the other acts as an agent for the BCSPCA, a practice that will still be allowed under the bylaw.
Puchmayr said one of the things that distresses him about the ban is it dismisses the possibility of reputable breeders being able to sell cats and dogs through stores.
"It's been identified there are some bad apples, but to make blanket bylaws because we think there are bad apples isn't right. We need to identify the bad apples," said Puchmayr on Tuesday. "It is a problem, it polarizes some people in the community, nevertheless it needs to be tackled, but I'd like to see it tackled differently."
McEvoy said he's reluctant to ban anything, and would prefer to see a solid case of evidence before doing so. He said the big issue is puppy mills and the improper handling of animals, not selling them in stores.
"We don't fix it by banning that, by making it a mail-order business," said McEvoy, who suggested the city could help deal with the issue by instituting conditions in the business licences of pet store. "That would be a more effective, and more involved approach.
"I don't think there's a rush, and that was part of that feeling in [voting to oppose the ban]."
At the same meeting, council also discussed a report proposing to amend the animal control bylaw to eliminate specific breeds from its definition of "vicious" dogs, and finding a way to make owners more responsible.
The current bylaw does not allow vicious dogs to be outside of private property, including off-leash parks, without a muzzle. It also says they must be kept confined securely either indoors or in an enclosed pen. The bylaw's definition of vicious dogs was changed in 2008 to include 10 breeds—pit bull, pit bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, Cane Corso, Italian mastiff, Presa Canarios, Fila Brasileiro and Argentinian Dogo.
Puchmayr has mixed feelings on the issue. He has a friend with six pit bull cross dogs "that if you were alone with them they'd lick you to death." Conversely, many New Westminster residents have told him about their encounters with aggressive owners and dogs.
"That's where I'm torn. Any dog can be vicious no matter how large or how small," said Puchmayr. "How do you regulate the owner? … It's hard to regulate what's in someone's mind about their dog."
McEvoy said he hasn't made up his mind either, but he is concerned about the public safety issue that brought about the change in the first place. He doesn't buy the argument "it's not the dog, it's the owner" raised by those opposed to naming specific breeds. He compared it to the need for gun legislation. "You don't allow dangerous things out there in the hands of dangerous people."