Cobble Hill’s Jackie Barker wants to know why the Cowichan Valley Regional District is taking so long to update its animal control bylaw.
Barker was attacked and injured in 2014 by an aggressive dog running loose while she was out walking her dog.
She said the stitches and the lingering-fear factor, combined with a concussion which took three months to heal, led her to lobby for wording changes to the district’s bylaw.
“I had found that 12 electoral areas in the Greater Victoria Regional District, the Municipality of North Cowichan and (many other jurisdictions) have dog regulation bylaws that better protect the public from aggressive dogs,” Barker said.
In May, 2017, the CVRD began public consultations on new animal regulations that were being proposed at the time.
The bylaw had not been reviewed since 2007 and Robert Blackmore, the now-retired manager of inspection and enforcement for the district, said the bylaw required modernizing to keep up with emergent dog-related issues in the electoral areas.
He said at the time that an important element that was being considered in a new bylaw was the issue of public safety and the need to address aggressive dogs by placing the focus on the dog owner to control and prevent incidents.
He said that the bylaw’s rules for dogs involved in aggressive incidents are vague.
Despite the initiative at the time, the district still hasn’t updated its bylaw.
Barker said the district’s review of its animal control bylaw actually began in 2014, shortly after she sent letters to all the CVRD’s directors stating it was an important safety issue, and still seems to be no closer to a conclusion.
She fears the initiative will be shelved.
“By now, surely tens of thousands of dollars in staff and director time have been spent on discussing changes, holding public forums around the Valley, administering an online public PlaceSpeak discussion, and producing at least two good drafts which certainly addressed my concerns,” she said.
“To have it fizzle now with a few words of dismissal, frankly, is beyond unacceptable.”
Ian MacDonald, who is currently in charge of building inspection and bylaw enforcement in the district, said work is ongoing on the bylaw revisions.
He said one factor that has slowed the process was the recent retirement of Blackmore.
“That took time away from completing this review and changing the bylaw,” MacDonald said.
“But a draft bylaw is still moving forward. It has already gone to the electoral area services committee and was referred back to staff to make some changes before it goes back to the committee. Then the committee will decide if the draft bylaw will go on to the board.”
Board chairman Jon Lefebure added that it’s a fact that CVRD staff have large work loads and have to choose priorities when deciding what to focus their attention on at any given time.
“We’ve had to cut back the public hours at the development services desk so staff can get their work done,” he said.
“The bylaw is in process, but has been delayed by staff workloads and the retirement of Robert Blackmore.”