Friday, April 20, 2007

Montague Council Goes To The Dogs

First off, well done to council on achieving a 0 % tax increase for this year in their budget. That's a big plus for all of us who will enjoy it, but also an achievement to point to when looking to attract new residents to the township.

That said, it seems that the issue of dog tags is now the dominant one on the council's plate. This year, house-to-house issuing of dog tags was stopped, with the result that about 350 people have yet to renew their dog tags. Bylaw enforcement has been stepped up, with the bylaw officer quoted in the newspaper as saying she will be 'ruthless' this year.

At the council meeting it emerged that fines of $70 are already being issued, and that these fines can be given to an individual multiple times, as frequently as every week. There has been something of a back-leash.

I think the new dog tag arrangements and pricing steer the best course between respecting the rural nature of Montague and the fact that many of us have multiple dogs, and the promotion of responsible dog ownership. That said, there has been no warning that enforcement would suddenly be ratcheted up to such a level this year; the deterrent has usually been the higher cost of dog tags after March 31. I think it might be appropriate to at least issue a warning with a short grace period during which an owner must get tags at the higher price (say a week) or the fine will be issued.

As in all such areas of regulation, the biggest problem lies with those outside the system, who have never tagged their dogs; the backyard breeding operations that go unlicensed and undetected. If we're stepping up enforcement in the township, let's make sure it's not just going down the list of last year's defaulters, but actually looking for unlicensed homes and kennels too. Those are the places where responsible dog ownership is likely non-existent, and more likely to be the places where problems of abuse and cruelty are found.