New bylaw targets barking dogs, at-large cats

Owners of dogs who bark or howl incessantly will be subject to some grief under the city's new animal ownership bylaw.

Dogs who bark for more than 10 minutes during any one-hour period during the day or for more than five minutes during an hour period at night can be deemed a nuisance.

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The first call will prompt a warning, the next one will carry a $250 fine and a $100 yearly licence fee. The nuisance designation can be appealed to the bylaw services manager on an annual basis.

Cat owners will also be subject to some obligations. Their pets will have to have identification and those found running at large will be subject to the same fine as a dog at large.

For those with identification, owners will have to pay a $51 impoundment fee to get them out, rising to $75 for those without.

In answer to a concern it will increase the number of cats in local shelters, bylaw services manager Fred Crittendon said Medicine Hat has seen a 56-per-cent decline in the six years since it put a similar measure in place.

The bylaw also includes regulations on when and how a cat can be trapped on private property.

Other features in the bylaw, which remains subject to fourth and final reading, include:

- Households will remain limited to three dogs but can bring in a fourth as a foster animal.

- The fine for failing to clean up animal feces will rise to $300 from $100 and owners will be required to carry a means of cleaning up when in a public place.

- Tethering of animals in public places will be prohibited, and they must be at least 1 1/2 metres from the property line if tethered on the owner's yard.

- Owners walking a dog in an off-leash area must carry a leash, be at least 18 years old. The dog must stay in the owner's view and be removed immediately if it acts aggressively.

- Maintenance fees for dogs staying at a shelter will be increased to $25 per day from $18.

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