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Dog bylaw bites owner

It’s just one more reminder for people in the Okanagan to ensure their dogs are kept at home and under control.

A Kelowna resident recently found out the hard way that he’s losing his nine-year-old Shepherd Husky mix due to mounting bylaw bills from the Regional District of the Central Okanagan.

Ralf Slotta has had Bonnie since she was born and they’ve had numerous adventures together.

However she managed to escape from her yard last week by digging a hole under the fence and was picked up and taken to the pound for the fourth time in just over one year. Slotta was out of town at the time and didn’t find out until he returned this past weekend.

Due to these recurring bylaw offences, it means he now owes the RDCO over $500 to get his dog back, in addition to a $20 per day charge that it’s costing to keep her in the pound since getting picked up.

“I did everything I could to keep her in the home and the officers (from Central Okanagan Dog Control Services) actually stated I did everything I could to keep her in the home,” he says.

“She is one of those dogs. She wants to go around. She’s no harm to no one.”

But Bruce Smith, spokesperson with the RDCO, says that’s not the reasoning behind the bylaw.

“A person who chooses to own a dog has a responsibility to ensure that dog is under their care and control at all times in order to protect the public. And that’s what it's about. You choose to own a dog; it’s not a right. A person makes a choice to own a dog and with that choice comes responsibility.”

The fine structure escalates with the number of bylaw offences, and the monetary amounts are in line with other jurisdictions.

“There’s an escalating fine structure and under the bylaw – which is all about responsible dog ownership – for a licensed dog at large, the first offence is free and the dog gets returned,” explains Smith.

“The second offence is $100, the third offence is $250, and each subsequent violation is an additional $300 dollars, which is why we’re at the $550.”

The animal’s owner in these cases have 72-hours to come forward and claim the dog, but if they have not or cannot pay the fine, then they cannot claim the dog. The animal will then be taken to the SPCA if it is adoptable.

“All I know is it was at large and at large frequently. Like I said, this is the fourth offence since March 2013,” says Smith.

Slotta meanwhile is concerned that Bonnie will be disposed, which is also one of the RDCO’s options.

He fought back tears as he talked about his companion in a worse case scenario. A letter addressed to him stated that after the 72-hour time limit, the RDCO can choose either option as they see fit.

“When she goes out she comes back on her own, nobody has to bring her -- she knows where she lives. I don’t know what drives her, but that’s her character, she wants to see what’s out there,” says Slotta.

“But now people are afraid to do the wrong thing and then they call the dog bylaw and then they have to pick her up and give her back to me.”

Slotta has another dog that happens to be part of Bonnie’s litter.

His name is Toby and is of the same breed, but doesn’t have the same urge to escape.

Slotta hopes that doesn’t change.

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