New animal control bylaw coming to Centre Wellington

ELORA – Centre Wellington is in for a new animal control bylaw.

At a Nov. 18 committee of the whole meeting council passed the presented draft animal control bylaw, with a few amendments.

However, the approval did not come without discussion.

After the Sept. 9 public meeting, staff modified the bylaw to allow for three dogs per dwelling, removed the provision to register cats and to put limits on small pets, revised the restricted animal list, and allowed falcons and raptors for individuals with a provincial licence.

Regarding backyard chickens, the following adjustments were made to the bylaw:

– removed a minimum lot area size and retained the minimum 3m from both rear and side lot line requirement;

– reduced the minimum floor area per hen to 2m2;

– provided a minimum outdoor floor area for the coop, not per hen;

– increased the number of hens per property to 10 from four;

– removed the age restrictions for hens; and

– removed the requirement for daily disposal of feces.

“With regards to the noise provisions for barking dogs, it remains part of the bylaw with wording as provided by our prosecutor, which would allow for enforcement,” deputy clerk Lisa Miller said.

“A noise enforcement policy would be developed in order to deal with those complaints.”

The bylaw states “No person shall permit a dog to make a noise by barking, howling or whining,” and in the definition section of the bylaw noise is defined as “a sound that at the point of reception is likely to disturb the inhabitants.”

However, several councillors pointed out that they think that aspect of the bylaw is unenforceable.

Councillor Stephen Kitras asked if one bark would be included under the bylaw.

“One dog bark is not considered to be a noise that would disturb the inhabitants,” Miller said. “We have been asked by numbers of citizens to add the word excessive to (the bylaw) which is how the current bylaw is worded, which we’ve found difficult to enforce when there’s actually a problem of consistent dog barking where if it goes on at the beginning of the hour every hour for five minutes.

“Through the noise enforcement policy you could log that and have a noise log that shows that is a noise that would be likely to disturb the inhabitant at the point of reception.”

Kitras asked for more specifics so that a person reading the bylaw can know whether they’re in violation.

“The legal advice we have received is to use the phrase as directed by (legal) counsel,” clerk Kerri O’Kane said. “That that is enforceable as far as our prosecutor is concerned.”

She said the other option is to remove any noise component from the animal control bylaw and wait for the county-wide noise control bylaw to be approved before addressing any barking complaints.

“We did feel that until that bylaw’s done this is a mechanism for us to use in extreme cases of poor pet ownership,” O’Kane said. “It is not our intention to fine or to warn people that are playing in their backyard playing frisbee with their dog and the dog is barking.

“This is to be used for irresponsible pet ownership and in excessive cases.”

Councillor Neil Dunsmore also voiced concern there is no clear definition of violations of the bylaw.

Councillor Ian MacRae said he liked the wording regarding noise.

“You need … something that allows you to address situations where you may have special circumstances that are unique, that would not fall under continuous but where something over a matter of time, over the course of the day it would actually be excessive,” he said.

“I like the way the wording is here as it does allow us that flexibility that what is reasonable we will ignore. What is unreasonable we’re going to deal with.”

Councillor Steven VanLeeuwen agreed the bylaw needs to address noise.

“If that is our legal counsel’s advice to put this in here, that it’s defensible, then I think we should take that advice and go forward,” he said.

Despite Kitras bringing up the noise section of the bylaw about five more times during the meeting, the wording remained unchanged from the draft presented to council.

Councillor Bob Foster asked if the new bylaw had any jurisdiction over the Ontario Nutri Labs facility in the township, where animal research is conducted. The land is zoned for just that purpose.

“We don’t think this bylaw is the tool to be used to address noise issues there,” O’Kane said. “Those facilities are governed and regulated by the province, by the [Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs].

“And if they feel that it’s a municipal responsibility then it shouldn’t be done through, in our opinion, the animal control bylaw. It should be done either through planning provisions or through noise control bylaw.”

Foster also said he was concerned with allowing three dogs per household.

“The more dogs there are, the more noise there’s going to be,” he said.

Mayor Kelly Linton pointed out it was council direction from the Sept. 9 public meeting to change the bylaw from two to three dogs allowed.

Foster also brought up concern about allowing 10 chickens per household, implying it was too many. He asked O’Kane for comment.

“If you will recall, staff had a recommendation originally of four and council asked us to remove that provision and create (one stating) 10,” she said.

Councillor Kirk McElwain also brought up the topic of a lengthy discussion at the Sept. 9 public meeting. He asked whether council could reconsider registering cats in a year’s time.

“A lot of people are very upset because they’re dog owners and don’t feel they should be paying the whole bill kind of thing for all animal control,” he said.

Linton said council had discussed the topic for about an hour and gave staff clear direction to remove it.

He added, “We’re really going over old ground now. We had this discussion already.”

Council amended the proposed bylaw to remove “all venomous reptiles” and “all venomous insects (including arachnids)” from the list of prohibited animals in schedule A so that “all animals that in capacity produce venom, even devenomized if medically significant to the average human, that will require medical treatment.”

The amendment also included the addition of swine to the list of prohibited animals with the exception of potbelly pigs.

Council voted to pass the new animal control bylaw with Foster and Kitras opposed. Staff will now put together a set of fines that needs to be reviewed and accepted by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The bylaw will then be brought back to council for final adoption.

Centre Wellington will begin licencing three dogs per dwelling, registering chicken coops and registering prohibited animals in January 2020. To see the full bylaw visit