Owners face fines for leaving dogs in hot vehicles

NANAIMO – SPCA says new rules show city cares for animals.

City rules could soon take a big bite out of pet owners’ pocketbooks if they’re caught leaving dogs in hot cars.

Nanaimo politicians are one vote away from new rules and penalties for errant dog owners, including $500 for those who’ve left dogs in cars during hot weather.

Changes to Nanaimo’s Licensing and Control of Animals bylaw passed third reading at an open council meeting Monday.

Once approved, it’ll give animal control officers new power to levy fines at their discretion if canines are left in vehicles in hot weather without the adequate ventilation to keep temperatures below 23 degrees.

They can also slap an additional $200 on pet owners if distressed dogs have to be rescued and impounded.

It’s exactly what advocates have called for, pointing out that despite education campaigns dogs continue to be left in hot cars.

Bylaw changes would also ban dogs from being tethered with a rope, cord or chain wrapped directly around their necks, tied up longer than nine hours a day, and being any closer than three metres from doorways of public buildings.

It would be the first time the city assumes control over animal welfare, a decision spurred by a request last August by the SPCA.

Previously only the leashing and licensing of dogs were controlled.

“This has caught Nanaimo up and even put us ahead of many municipalities in taking a stand and insisting that we care and expect others to care for our community’s animals,” said Leon Davis, Nanaimo SPCA branch manager.

He’d also like to see the city revisit its new nine-hour tethering rule in the future, pointing out it’s one of the longest limits in the province.

The bylaw changes, which go to council for final approval this July, hold appeal for dog owners Dan Nault and Debbie McBean. Nault called it great and said if people are fined once, they probably won’t do it again. McBean would like to see a higher, $1,000 fine.

“If you make it punishable that they think, holy crud, 10 minutes is going to cost me a grand, maybe they’ll smell the coffee and say I can’t afford it and my dog’s life is more important to me than just putting it at risk for 10 minutes to go and do whatever,” she said.

Animal welfare complaints will be a top priority. The city expects a drop in patrols of parks and beaches.

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