Council committee approves pet bylaw changes after owners relate horror stories

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Over an agonizing 30 minutes, Catherine Gagnon watched “the life drain” out of Ruby, her eight-year-old dog, as she struggled to free the pooch from a legal wildlife trap.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/01/2022 (213 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Over an agonizing 30 minutes, Catherine Gagnon watched “the life drain” out of Ruby, her eight-year-old dog, as she struggled to free the pooch from a legal wildlife trap.

Now she hopes one of several updates to Winnipeg’s responsible pet ownership bylaw, which would ban the outdoor use of body-hold traps, will prevent others from losing their furry loved ones the same way.

“(Ruby) did not die peacefully. She most certainly did not die humanely,” Gagnon told council’s protection committee Friday. “No living, feeling, breathing being — domestic or wild — deserves to die so horrifically.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Catherine Gagnon with one of her dogs, Sophie, who was with her when her other dog, Ruby, was caught in a conibear trap and died.

Gagnon’s dog died just over a year ago on Jan. 23, about 800 metres north of city limits in the Rural Municipality of Rosser. Gagnon was previously unaware such traps were allowed within and outside city limits.

Without the proposed ban, Gagnon fears other pets — and possibly even children — could be killed or injured by the traps.

“Ruby’s (death) has left a hole in my heart…. She was a family member. I pray that not another (being) suffers her fate,” she said.

Winnipegger Andreina Holliday also hopes to prevent others from enduring the pain of losing their dogs in the sudden, painful way she did.

Holliday’s small pets, Tango and Rocky, were at Pooches Playhouse canine daycare on May 7 and were fatally attacked by a larger dog.

Holliday told the Free Press she’s glad the city is proposing minimum play space requirements and staff-to-dog ratios for dog daycares but believes higher standards and fines are needed.

She said the city should ensure the businesses maintain ratios of one staff member for 15 dogs, instead of the currently proposed ratio of one for 20 large dogs or one for 25 small ones.

“I think that we can do better, considering how difficult it would be for one person to safely break up a dog fight,” she said.

She also believes canine daycares should be required to provide at least 50 to 60 square feet of open, dedicated play space per dog, depending on size. The city is proposing to set the minimum at 20 square feet per small dog and 35 square feet for larger breeds.

She’s also calling for steeper penalties facilities that break the rules. The current proposal includes a $250 fine, but Holliday believes the death or serious injury of a dog should trigger the closure of the facility involved until a review ensures it’s safe to reopen.

“The fines… are so minimal that there’s no real financial consequences to these businesses. It’s really a slap on the wrist,” she said.

During the meeting, a lawyer with the advocacy group Animal Justice said there is widespread support to ban the outdoor use of many wildlife traps, though wording on the ban should be clarified to encompass leg-hold and other types, as well.

“They all cause prolonged suffering,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell.

Nikki Sherwin, the owner of Woofs ’n Wags dog daycare, said she fully supports the new standards under consideration.

The call to separate dogs by size would be a major step forward, she said.

“This is integral to the safety of dogs. A small dog should never be in a group of larger dogs,” she said.

The proposed rules would also set fines for leaving pets inside hot or cold vehicles and feeding wildlife on private property (except for bird feeders). They would also impose new limits on breeders.

Coun. Sherri Rollins, who leads the protection committee, said she hopes the changes prevent the kinds of pet losses discussed during Friday’s meeting.

“I hope that those who have experienced losses that came to committee today, when they see the bylaw, that they feel that their loss wasn’t in vain and council did act,” said Rollins.

The committee approved the changes; a final council vote on the proposed bylaw revision is still required.

Joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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