Halifax councillor wants to change how the city deals with dangerous dogs

·3 min read
A Halifax municipal councillor says the city needs a new approach to dealing with dangerous dogs. (The Len/Shutterstock - image credit)
A Halifax municipal councillor says the city needs a new approach to dealing with dangerous dogs. (The Len/Shutterstock - image credit)

The Halifax municipal councillor for the area where three dog attacks took place in the past nine months is trying to change the way the city deals with dangerous dogs.

Kathryn Morse, councillor for Halifax-Bedford Basin West, put forward a motion last week to "simplify and streamline" the process of removing dangerous dogs from their owners and determining an outcome for dogs that have been seized or surrendered.

Morse said the issue of dangerous dogs has been prominent in her district since the attacks involving the same three dogs on Evans Avenue in November and December 2020, and July of this year.

"A number of residents ... told me that they've been nervous for a long time just to take a walk in their own neighborhood," Morse said in an interview Monday. "And they're certainly nervous about letting their kids out to play.

"And that's just not right. I mean, people should feel safe in their own neighborhood."

The motion passed unanimously and council is now awaiting a staff report.

Slow process

The process of dealing with dangerous dogs is currently laid out in Halifax's animal control bylaw, and goes through the court system. When dog owners are charged, it can take up to 18 months to resolve the issue, Morse's motion stated.

Morse wants to see a more timely resolution.

She suggested a municipal appeal process as an alternative to going through the courts. The cases would be adjudicated by an independent review panel, similar to the process used for Halifax's current taxi appeals committee.

Alex Speck, who lives on Evans Avenue and was involved in the December attack, said he and another man had to fend off the dogs using a stick and a bat.

After the attack, court documents show multiple charges were laid against Dianna and Adam Levin, the owners of the dogs. Speck and other neighbours wrote statements and spoke to officials about the situation, but the dogs remained with their owners. The dogs were only seized following the July attack.

"It was a broad community that was at risk ... and a broad community that demanded they do something," Speck said. "And we were put on the back burner and told that we have to wait."

Submitted by Alex Speck
Submitted by Alex Speck

Speck said he doesn't blame the dogs, animal control or the police. He blames the owners and the bureaucracy.

"[The officer said] he can't do anything until the court date," he said. "But it's still a danger right next door all the time."

Speck said he thinks Morse's motion is "wonderful," because having a faster process for removing dogs from negligent or unsafe situations could reduce the number of incidents.

It could also give dogs a more successful chance of being rehabilitated.

Both Morse and Speck pointed out that most dog owners are responsible and most dogs are good, but there have been incidents with dangerous dog in many areas of the city.

Morse said she hopes the staff report will be ready in the fall and the process of creating a new, expedited system can begin.

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