Municipalities and BSL

You can help introduce fairer, evidence-based, breed-neutral laws in your community. It can be a long process, but you will find there is a lot of support out there, and it’s a wonderful legacy to create.

  1. Look up the current animal control bylaws and become familiar with them. They should be available on the City’s website, or by calling the City Clerk. Use the guidelines on this page to analyze the current laws and make recommendations for review.

  2. Do a little investigative research. Find out when the bylaws were implemented and when the breed-specific elements were added. Was it a long time ago and it’s simply never been changed? Was it in response to an incident or perceived threat? You may want to reach out to animal control personnel, bylaw supervisors or individual councillors for a friendly, non-confrontational call or meeting to gather this information. Learn as much as you can about the political climate, real or perceived animal control issues in your community, and recommendations about how to proceed.

  3. Once you have some background information, you may want to consider approaching City Council. We recommend sending a letter first – keeping it courteous, simple and direct. Don’t overwhelm them with data. Cover the main points and, if you like, provide attachments or links to this site or others for them to learn more. Communication templates and other information can be found in our Resources section. Consider bringing together other community members to co-sign the letter. Councillors receive complaint letters regarding every possible issue, and a letter representing 10, 20, or 100 people will have more power than what might be perceived as an isolated complaint letter from an individual. You may wish to create a mailing list, Facebook group, or hold a meeting to drum up a support base.

  4. If you don’t receive a satisfactory response to the letter – which may be because councillors are busy – consider making a presentation directly to Council. Each city has its own procedure for hearing from the public – you may need to submit a letter to request a delegation, or you may be able to simply show up and speak. You should be able to find this out by visiting the City’s website or by calling the City Clerk.

  5. Keep the presentation focused and friendly. Councillors deal with a range of governance issues – parking, zoning, littering, you name it. Animal control is unlikely to be high on their radar or a subject they know much about. Keep in mind that policy-makers are human and subject to pre-conceptions and stereotypes, and they might believe that BSL is a sensible safety precaution. If they aren’t hearing about rampant dog attacks in their community, they may assume their current bylaws are just fine. Let them know about the movement towards breed-neutral legislation, and respectfully request that they review their animal control bylaws to make sure they are in keeping with best practices.

  6. If Council is receptive, they will usually refer the issue for staff review. This provides you with an opportunity to follow up and ensure staff members have current, accurate information in making further reports to council. We all know that there are many inaccurate sources of “statistics” on the Internet, and a city staffer tasked with compiling a report may not understand which information is evidence-based and accurate and which isn’t. You should be able to find out who is in charge of the review and request a friendly meeting with them to offer legitimate information sources to use in their research. Another tool you can use is a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act allows a citizen to request copies of records from government bodies in the interest of transparency. In working on animal control policy, for example, it might be useful to know how many animal control complaints have been received by the city, how many bites have been reported, and (if tracked) what breeds of dogs were involved. If the City doesn’t readily have this information available, you can submit an FOI request. http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/open-government/open-information/freedom-of-information

  7. Many councillors understand that their job is to provide good governance and reflect the interests of the taxpayers and residents. Some will be receptive to data and best practices around this issue. You may also encounter emotional reactions and use of anecdotes or poor sources of data to justify breed-specific thinking. This can be extremely frustrating and demoralizing. Still, it is crucial that all interactions be respectful and positive. At this stage, your role is not to protest the current legislation or government, but to be a resource in achieving the best possible legislation for the future.

  8. If there are questions, consider bringing in experts. Consult with reputable animal professionals, such as veterinarians and trainers, who work with animals every day and have valuable insight and knowledge on dog aggression. Ask them to write a letter of support or even to present directly to Council.The BC SPCA takes a firm stance against breed-specific legislation. If you contact them, they can provide you with a copy of their sample bylaws and may even be able to send a representative to speak.Local breed-specific groups or rescues like HugABull Advocacy & Rescue Society may be able to do the same, although be aware that while they have a great deal of experience and knowledge, they may be seen by policy makers as having an agenda. Still, these groups are worth connecting with and can often point you in the direction of helpful resources.

  9. If the Council isn’t receptive to a fair review, remember that there is power in numbers. You may want to increase your committee of supporters and consider a peaceful rally, a petition, a Facebook group, or some other measure that will help bring some public awareness to the issue. Ask residents and local business owners to use social media to show their support for a bylaw review. Reach out to local media. Keep the tone respectful and positive at all times, but make it clear that this is an important issue that isn’t going away and that the citizens of your community wish to see their city on the correct side of history when it comes to animal bylaws.If you are in the process of any of the steps above and need support, please e-mail us at: info@dogbitefacts.org.