Centre Wellington considers new animal control bylaw

ELORA – Centre Wellington is currently reviewing a new animal control bylaw.

The bylaw seeks to regulate the keeping, registration, licensing, control and welfare of certain classes of animals in Centre Wellington.

The township has never had an animal control bylaw – just a dog control bylaw.

The bylaw covers general information, licences and registration, dogs, cats, impoundment, prohibited animals, restricted animals, hen coops, kennels, hearing processes, fees, etc.

But the main areas of concern for those at a public meeting on Sept. 9 were hen coops, dog noise and restricted animals.

Hen coops

Nicole Simoens of the community group CW Backyard Poultry asked council to reject a part of the bylaw that states coop owners must “remove feces daily and dispose of the feces as compost or weekly waste pickup.”

Simoens said that isn’t healthy for chickens.

“Every time you put sawdust down you get dust that comes up that they’re going to be breathing in,” she said. “It’s not really a very practical, healthy or feasible way to go about it.”

She suggested adding a complaint-based item in the bylaw so if coops get smelly neighbours have a mechanism to use.

She also argued against a section of the bylaw stating hens must be at least four months old to be on non-agricultural property.

Simoens said people who have backyard coops often want to show their children the life cycle of chickens, which is not possible if the option to buy chicks is removed.

Laura Carrie, also of CW Backyard Poultry, said she is concerned about the four-hen limit on non-agricultural properties.

Carrie asked for a limit of 10 hens per property. She has a family of three, soon to be four, and said four hens would not provide eggs for everyone each day.

Other concerns brought up by CW Backyard Poultry members include restricting the property size to above 500 square metres and keeping the coop at least three metres from the rear or side property line. They argued many in-town lots are small and would thus be excluded from having backyard chickens.

Another concern was the requirement that 0.37 metres squared (four square feet) is required per bird, as well as the requirement that the backyard be fenced with a fully enclosed coop.

Council directed staff to work with CW Backyard Poultry to come up with best options for the bylaw, including a possible increase to the maximum number of chickens – how many has not yet been decided.

Councillor Neil Dunsmore said he wants to ensure chickens are enclosed and cannot get out of their runs and into neighbours’ yards.

Dog noise

The proposed animal control bylaw states that no one shall “permit a dog to make a noise by barking, howling or whining.”

One section describes noise as “sound that at the point of reception is likely to disturb the inhabitants.”

Resident Sandra Brown said she would like more guidelines and the noise definition is too vague.

“Noise … experienced in south Elora has not been to do with dog’s barking, howling or whining,” Brown said.

“I don’t like being woken up at 6:30 in the morning by my neighbour blowing snow, but that happens; much more noise than any dog would make.”

Kelsey Coulter, on behalf of her neighbourhood, expressed concerns about barking dogs at Ontario Nutrilab Inc. in former West Garafraxa Township.

She asked Centre Wellington to include something in the bylaw about the responsibility the township has to enforce barking stipulations in the bylaw.

Coulter said dogs at the research facility are outside seven days a week, for eight hours a day.

“They bark and howl and drive us into our homes,” she said. “Regularly the dogs are heard inside our homes.” She said the concern is not that the dogs are outside.

“An investment by Ontario Nutrilabs to abate the noise coming from their facility is what we’re requesting,” Coulter said. “Only then will our neighbourhood again experience the peaceful enjoyment of our properties, as is our right.”

Clerk Kerri O’Kane said Centre Wellington “inherited” the facility from West Garafraxa and there are no mechanisms to regulate it.

Councillor Ian MacRae suggested looking at the noise and zoning bylaws to ensure issues surrounding research facilities can be addressed in the future.

Residents Brandon and Colleen Dobbie were also in favour of stricter barking restrictions. They say they’ve had to leave their house because of the annoyance of neighbours’ dogs barking and they don’t think the current bylaw is enforceable.

“Pet ownership is a responsibility, not a right,” Brandon said. “It falls upon you as a township to see that individuals understand this and that you do not waiver in your responsibility as mandated by law, both provincially and federally, to enforce bylaws which you enact.”

Mayor Kelly Linton explained the township is looking to connect the barking portion of the animal control bylaw with the township’s noise bylaw.

“We’re going through all of our bylaws right now, making sure that we can do a better job enforcing them,” Linton said.

“That’s one of the challenges we had in the past … we don’t have the enforcement because they don’t have the right clauses in our current bylaw and it’s not consistent across all of Centre Wellington.”

Staff will also look into the possibility of issuing official noise logs for residents who complain about barking to keep an official record.

Restricted animals

Shelley Mahovich and Devon Black asked that birds of prey be permitted if the owner has a falconer’s license.

All diurnal and nocturnal raptors (such as eagles, hawks and owls) are prohibited under the draft animal control bylaw.

“Falconry is a legal and highly strict activity in which laws laid out by the provincial government and the Ministry of Natural resources are to be followed carefully,” Mahovich said.

“These governing bodies ensure that birds, public and falconers are safe and protected and can revoke the falconer’s license for any …. violations.

“We feel that having raptors owned by a licensed falconer, located within our communities is practical and viable.”

Black has a falconer’s license and said he wouldn’t be able to visit his mother if the bylaw goes through because he has to care for his birds 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Linton directed staff to make the change in the draft bylaw to allow raptors with those who have a falconer’s license because they’re regulated by another governing body.

Council also chose not to require mandatory cat registration and removed restrictions on small pets, however, council did choose to keep the maximum number of dogs per property at three in the draft bylaw.

Staff will bring a revised animal control bylaw back to council at a later date. To see the full bylaw visit https://bit.ly/2kLb8Fj.