‘Dog fighting’ continues

"Tried in absentia, convicted and punished without appeal' – a resident explains his frustration with enforcement of animal control bylaw

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The fighting continues—including one side claiming there was never a fight in the first place.

John Coburn came before Midway council at their Sept. 3, 2013 meeting to contest an order declaring three of his family’s dogs as dangerous following an incident on June 11, 2013 along the river walking trails. Four dogs—all off leash— (three belonging to the Coburns and the fourth owned by an unnamed individual) met on the trail and as a result of the encounter a complaint was filed with the village by that unnamed owner.

The village subsequently declared the Coburn animals to be dangerous dogs as defined by Midway’s Animal Control Bylaw #438.

“Charged based on one person’s complaint, tried in absentia, found guilty without representation, and penalty imposed without possibility of appeal,” protested Coburn.

Under the bylaw dangerous animals must be on a leash and muzzled and under the immediate control of a competent person while in a public place. The bylaw also sets the annual license fee at $1,000 for dangerous dogs ‘as defined by the bylaw’. However Coburn argues that the behavior of the Coburn dogs did not meet the test of that definition.

“Had Teresa (Coburn’s daughter and owner of two of the dogs) or I had the opportunity to say our piece we would say there is no indication of a fight or conflict happening,” said Coburn.

Coburn questions if the village has a written procedure on how to handle complaints and challenges the way this incident has been handled.

“Bylaws enforced this way leave the village open to being the stick for one neighbor to beat on another for personal reasons.”

He insists there is no justification for punitive action based on the complaint of one person with no investigation by a competent authority.

By his own account the Coburns have sent at least five letters (one by registered mail) to the village since mid-June. Administrator Penny Feist later revealed some frustration with the number of letters in the file.

“I don’t know what to say because every time I responded to your complaints you had sent another letter,” Feist told Coburn. “I am not saying it is not an important issue but there are some important issues that are going on in the village right now.”

“You can make this go away by rescinding the punitive action as it relates to dangerous dogs identified in the complaint,” Coburn said.

He also suggested:

Adoption of a procedure for handling complaints that ensures all parties are heard and the rules applied fairly.

Where a legitimate concern for public safety is a factor use of interim order regarding dangerous dog classifications, which could be removed on satisfactory resolution.

Place signage at all entrances to trails reinforcing the on-leash rule.

Conflict resolution and bylaw enforcement courses for village staff.

Establish an enclosed off-leash park.

Councillor Dick Dunsdon told Coburn that based on what others in the village have told him, he believes the Coburn dogs scare people. “I am not saying vicious, I am not saying anything else but from my perspective that’s my concern.”

When the issue came up for debate later in the meeting council decided to refer the file to the next meeting to give themselves the opportunity to review the bylaw and all of the correspondence.

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Kamloops businessman Karl Dreiger was scheduled to discuss his retail development ideas for Hwy. 3 near the museum but sent an email saying he wouldn’t be available that date.

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After a request by Councillor Gary Schierbeck at the last meeting staff reported that council had, in fact, passed a motion last year directing the works crew to put up the Welcome to Midway sign across Hwy. 3 from Florence Street.

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Following up on a question raised at the Aug. 19 meeting by Councillor Darrin Metcalfe about getting quotes for work on the arena compressors Administrator Penny Feist reported that the public works foreman has been organizing quotes for the work.

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Reacting to complaints of dust along two unpaved blocks of Haynes Street (from 4th to 5th Avenue) council has directed staff to prepare a report listing options to the village to solve the problem. Feist told council the road is legally classified as open.

“It is just an undeveloped portion of Haynes,” she said.

***

Midway resident Lorna Sargent, who claims over 50 years of experience in breeding and training dogs, offered comment regarding the Animal Control Bylaw and the labeling of dogs as vicious or dangerous.

“Dangerous dogs yes, but vicious should never be allowed in the terminology unless you have someone from the SPCA, a vet or dog trainer that is trained to document why you are using that word vicious,” she said.

 

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