Ontario Nutri Labs speaks out about Centre Wellington animal control bylaw

ELORA – Ontario Nutri Labs made its case at Centre Wellington council regarding the new township’s animal control bylaw.

“Ontario Nutri Lab owns a research facility just outside of Fergus and that facility houses and cares for a number of dogs in order to conduct research for the pet food industry,” said legal counsel Brian Duxbury at the committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 18.

“And it’s a high priority for my client to provide top notch care for their dogs and that includes outside exercise time every day for their dog population and they do it in cycles through the day.”

Neighbours have voiced concern about the noise made from the dogs when they’re outside.

“Like many large operations, agricultural operations, in your municipality there are noise impacts and there are noise impacts with respect to this facility,” Duxbury said.

“My client’s facility is zoned for the uses that take place there.”

He cautioned the bylaws should not automatically prohibit certain businesses.

“They should be created to allow for a range of compliance or the possibility of compliance but they should not automatically defeat certain uses,” he said.

He added that the new animal control bylaw would prevent Ontario Nutri Labs from functioning.

“Any type of barking or whining or howling from the dogs would instantly constitute an infraction under the bylaw and so you can probably see the difficulty with the bylaw in its current form.”

Duxbury asked that an exemption be created for Nutri Labs with regards to noise. He added Nutri Labs has created berms and put up container-style structures to help mitigate sound travel.

“I know that that doesn’t satisfy the neighbours,” Duxbury said.

However, Nutri Labs is also undergoing internal studies to look at the behaviour of dogs and what makes dogs bark when there are a bunch of them outside.

“They’re looking at ways that they’re trying to … calm the outdoor atmosphere for the dogs so the barking is reduced and diminished,” he said.

Councillor Ian MacRae, who has been to the facility, agreed.

“While I did recognize the efforts they have made to attenuate the noise I would agree with you that more needs to be done,” he said.

Later in the council meeting, council passed the new animal control bylaw, without making an exemption for Ontario Nutri Labs.

However, clerk Kerri O’Kane said she didn’t think the animal control bylaw had jurisdiction over Ontario Nutri Labs because the facility is governed and regulated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

If the municipality does need to take action, it will shouldn’t be through the animal control bylaw, O’Kane said; it would likely be through planning provisions or a noise bylaw.