Calgary, Alberta, Canada has seen great success with their Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw. They have become well known for their high pet registration and reclamation rates, as well as their very low rates of euthanasia.
The bylaw emphasizes reasonable and proper pet care. Where other cities in Canada focus on banning certain breeds, Calgary decided to implement strong educational programs and stronger enforcement for law-breakers.
The city spends considerable funds on dog safety, public awareness and education campaigns, and research shows that just 1 hour of dog safety training in the second and third grades can reduce the attacks by 80%.
Chief bylaw officer Bill Bruce says, “We don’t punish the breeds, we punish behavior.. The bottom line is we believe all dogs are capable of biting.”
Officials listened to the breed ban complaints that were received in the Newell county in Alberta. These complaints were from people within the county, as well as around the world. They decided to listen and take action. Because of the changes, the town has seen a decrease in reported dog bites; in 1985, the number of reported dog bits was about 1000, and in 2003, the number was reduced to 260.
In Calgary, 90% of the dogs are licensed, allowing bylaw officers to keep track of pets and their owners. The city has implemented a strict fine structure that includes a $250 fine for chase incidents and $350 fine for dog bites. The bylaw also allows officers to declare specific dogs as “dangerous,” which increases the license fees, as well as enforces a muzzling rule and age restrictions on who can handle the dog.
According to the bylaw, only the owner or a court order can destroy a dog.
Calgary has seen a 70% drop in the number of overall dog bites, and according to the numbers, the number of attacks within the city is the lowest that it has been in 25 years. They are aware there are several factors that can be addressed to continue to reduce the number of attacks, and the officers continuously try to identify these common factors in attempts to get the number of bites to as close to zero as possible.
This pet bylaw puts the pet owners in the hot seat.
Overall public support for the bylaw and Bill Bruce’s efforts have been strong. The citizens of Calgary obtain comfort knowing their Animal Services Department is there to help, not hurt their dogs. The taxpayers see great success with the Pet Ownership Bylaw, as there are fewer strays and more animals returned to their owners. There aren’t any extra fees either, as it’s all paid for by the licensing fees. Because there are fewer animals in government shelters and there is such a high compliance with licensing, the need for funding is reduced.
Since the bylaw has been implemented, the licensing compliance rate for dogs is about 91%. There is an 85% return to owner rate, and a euthanasia rate of a mere 6% for dogs.
Calgary does not have any limit laws, breed-specific laws, mandatory spay/neuter ordinances, tethering laws, nor interference from animal rights groups.