Big Lakes plans paid licences for cats and dogs

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Cat and dog owners in Big Lakes County could be required to buy licenses for their pets with an annual fee starting in 2024.

At its regular meeting July 26, council gave first reading to revise its animal-control bylaw to add licences and annual fees starting in January 2024.

“Administration is recommending and annual licence fee of $25 per dog and $10 per cat,” says Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.

“These fee amounts are near average of other municipalities in the area.”

Currently licences are free.

Regulations and licensing applies to cats in hamlets and to dogs in the entire county.

He says council may wish to set specific fees for different categories such as lower fees for seniors, spayed and neutered animals and special animals such as working dogs on farms, seeing-eye dogs and police dogs.

Reeve Robert Nygaard hopes licensing and fees will curb concerns for dangerous cats and dogs for more than one year.

“We have to control these animals.” Nygaard says.

Council directed administration to draft a schedule of fees and present the proposed bylaw for second reading at the next council meeting Aug. 9.

South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart and High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Tyler Airth voted against first reading.

Stewart says she has working dogs on her farm and opposes licences and fees for working dogs.

She may even buck the bylaw if licences are required for working dogs.

“My dogs are on my property – I’m not going to get a licence,” Stewart says.

Airth also asked about working dogs on farms, noting that sheep farms have several working dogs.

He suggests service dogs be exempt from the fee.

Hawken says administration would consider a fee structure for various types of dogs.

Dog owners who have a lifetime licence would also be required to pay the annual fee, animal-control officer Mary Brust says in response to a question from Nygaard.

Since the High Prairie Veterinary Clinic closed business July 28, it leaves the region without local vet services, Hawken says.

“This closure negatively affects Big Lakes County’s animal-control program by requiring extra time and vehicle use to travel to alternative veterinary clinics for required services,” Hawken says.

It also causes repercussions on the cat bylaw amendment.

“Unclaimed cats in the animal-care facility were previously going to be taken to the High Prairie Veterinary Clinic and euthanized at a discounted rate,” Hawken says.

Administration is currently gathering information on possible solutions, including requesting discounted rates at alternative veterinary clinics and options for other programming, he says.

Another problem facing Big Lakes is that In the Woods Animal Rescue is largely unable to accept more dogs since there is an abundance of other animals needing their care, he says.

“Big Lakes is accommodating this change in service by putting dogs in our animal-care facility up for adoption,” Hawken says.

The county will host a dog-adoption event Aug. 12 at the animal-control facility from noon to 4 p.m.

So far in 2023, the county has adopted out 17 dogs, brought 10 puppies to In the Woods and one dog to Tsinitah Animal Rescue he reports.

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