Some say the price of safety cannot be measured, but in this town it’s costing the equivalent of the total tax dollars generated by 23.5 homes.
In a recent report to council Chief Building Official Terry Kuipers wrote, “As you may know, on Sept. 28, 2007, a pair of dogs in Palmerston attacked an adult female, with one of the dogs having bit her in the upper right thigh, which drew blood.”
Kuipers was notified of the attack on Oct. 1, 2007 by the Palmerston OPP.
“In the past, I have been involved with these dogs through an attack in Clifford in 2006,” he wrote of a previous incident. An order of more effective control of the dogs was in place since that time.
“Since the history of the animals was known, I decided that we had to move in quickly, and in the interest of public safety, remove the two dogs from the residence.”
He said that on Oct. 2 of last year, “We obtained a search and seizure warrant and removed the dogs the next day without incident.
“The dogs were held at the town of Minto’s dog pound from Oct. 3, 2007 until May 16, 2008.”
Kuipers and bylaw enforcement officer Tim Lewis were required to attend court in Guelph and Walkerton several times to get the court orders regarding final disposition of the two dogs.
“On May 12, 2008, a Justice of the Peace in Guelph issued a destruction order for the dog that bit the woman and issued an order of more effective control onto the owner of the dogs.”
Kuipers pointed out an identical order was already in place when the Palmerston attack happened. He said the destruction order was executed with one dog being euthanized and the other returned to the owner.
“In total, these two dogs have been extremely expensive for the ratepayers of the Town of Minto. The first attack (the incident in Clifford) cost … over $7,000 to obtain a court order against the dogs. [In] this instance, the cost has been over $13,000, which totals over $20,000.
“To put this into perspective, the owner of these two dogs has cost the Town of Minto the equivalent to the tax dollars generated from 23.5 houses,” he said.
Kuipers added the cost to deal with the incident is “really unfortunate, considering that what was accomplished through the orders for more effective control would be something a responsible dog owner would have implemented under their own initiative after (or before) the first attack. Despite the cost of this incident, it is a small price to pay to protect the public from irresponsible dog owners.”
Mayor David Anderson understood the event was an ordeal for Kuipers and Lewis. Unfortunately, he said, the public needs to be aware of the situation created by one dog owner living in Palmerston.
“Hopefully this never happens again,” Anderson said.
Kuipers also pointed out cost recovery for the endeavor is “pretty bad. Our cost recovery has been about $70,” he said.
He said the current dog control bylaw never anticipated the length of stay of the dogs in the pound, nor the time involved to process the case.
“How do we stop it from happening again?” asked councillor David Turton.
Kuipers said Lewis’ expertise helped in the speed of the search and seizure, but the frustrations came in the courtroom. On a number of occasions, the defendant did not show up for the hearing. Instead of proceeding in the person’s absence, the case was deferred.
That meant Kuipers and Lewis were at the court building for most of the day, as impoundment costs for the animals continued to mount.
He was disappointed that in the end the only ruling was for the order of more effective control for the remaining dog. That order was already in place when the latest attack happened.
The municipality had wanted both dogs destroyed and a ban on dog ownership for the owner for five years.
Councillor Barb Burrows asked if there is any means by which the township can recover its legal expenses.
Kuipers was unsure that is possible in this case.
Deputy-Mayor Judy Dirksen asked if the town could even recover its costs for the impoundment.
Anderson said it was particularly difficult because the individual in question rents property and is not a landowner. Otherwise, he said, it might be possible to tag the costs onto the property taxes.
Clerk Barb Wilson said the only other option might be small claims court.