The city has decided to hold dog owners to a higher standard of responsibility.
Penticton city council passed three readings of the Responsible Dog Owner Bylaw along with three corresponding bylaws.
A proposal to ticket owners who leave there pets in a hot or cold car was amended so that owners will be fined $300 instead of $200. Many provisions were updated at the June 1 council meeting, but the issue of keeping a dog locked inside cars in the hot sun garnered the most discussion.
Coun. Andre Martin asked if smashing a car window is allowed if a suffering dog is trapped inside, and was told that the RCMP would have to be called and they decide the appropriate action.
“If (a pet) is in a vehicle and the officer thinks there’s safety concern with the animal, then they would contact the RCMP to come and help get the dog out of the car,” Mayor Andrew Jakubiet said.
Coun. Campbell Watt suggested a tolerance level between minus-five and 30 degrees Celsius, and keeping a pet in temperatures outside that range would constitute a harsher penalty.
That idea seemed too full of variables for Coun. Max Picton, who said the breed of each dog would determine whether or not it was in distress at those temperatures, citing huskies as having a disproportionate capability of handling a cooler environment.
“It should be an unnecessary bylaw,” Coun. Watt said. “If you really love something you’re going to take care of it. Leaving a pet confined in a suffocating position certainly doesn’t show love to me.”
“People think, ‘I’m only going to run in for a minute’,” Mayor Jakubeit said. “And of course, one minute becomes 20 or 30 minutes which becomes very problematic for the dog.”
There are mitigating factors to consider such as parking the car under shade and cloudy skies, but those circumstances often leave owners with a false sense of security,” Mayor Jakubeit said.
“It’s still a sauna inside for a dog, and that’s not fair.”
“If the window’s only cracked a little bit, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside, the temperature inside of the car is dramatically elevated,” Coun. Judy Sentes said.
“It is appalling to hear in the media where dogs have been put at great stress, and often to death.”
Corinne Ross, manager of the Penticton SPCA, said it is often lack of knowledge on the part of owners.
“For the most part, people who are taking their dogs in a car love their animals,” said Ross. “But people with dogs in the car are usually ignorant to the fact that it can get so hot in a car so quickly.”
Ross said the organization has already been called several times this year to deal with distressed pets in vehicles, and they’re relieved to see the city draw attention to the issue.
“There is only so much that staff from the shelter can do,” she said, adding that only RCMP and special constables can break into a vehicle.
“People get upset that we’re not doing anything, but we help the dog if there’s any way to and we go looking for the owner.”
While the new bylaw gives pet owners a new penalty to think about, mindfulness is the only way to prevent pets from being left in distress, Coun. Sentes said.
“I take my dog with me often, and the windows are down. And if it’s going to be a scenario where the windows can’t be down then I leave him at home. We are responsible for them, we are accountable for their safety. We have to be more mindful.”
The Responsible Owner Dog Owner Bylaw is expected to recieve its final reading and adoption at council’s next regular meeting on June 15.