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Rules are rules

Dear Mr. Editor,

First of all, I would like to make certain that it is understood that my letter is not requesting any changes to the Animal Control Bylaw. My letter is simply requesting accountability and that said bylaw be fully enforced.

Everyone should feel comfortable and at ease when walking down any sidewalk in the Town of Fort Frances.

In my opinion, this is, unfortunately, not the case due to the fact that our two full-time bylaw enforcement officers and the CAO, who supervises the municipal bylaw enforcement department, are neglecting their duties to enforce established bylaws.

The Town of Fort Frances bylaws are clearly written rules that are required to be followed by all citizens. When the bylaw enforcement officers and the CAO deem the enforcement of established bylaws to be at their “discretion,” I find that to be abhorrent and believe they are circumventing justice, failing to do their job and endangering the safety of the public.

The Town of Fort Frances Animal Control Bylaw (Bylaw No. 50-17) last modified Jan. 17, 2018, states the following:

“5.2 Where a bylaw enforcement officer or police officer is informed upon receipt of complaint, and is satisfied that a dog, cat or animal has attacked, bitten a person or animal or has been threatening or aggressive towards a person or animal without being provoked, and has further been provided with satisfactory evidence as to the name and address of the owner of the dog, cat or animal that the bylaw enforcement officer or police officer shall serve notice on the owner of the dog, cat or animal that the dog, cat or animal is deemed to be a vicious dog, cat or animal and requiring the owner to comply with any or all of the requirements set out in Section 5.4 and 5.5.”

The same bylaw further states:

"5.4 Every owner of a vicious dog, cat or animal shall at all times when the vicious dog, cat or animal is not in the owner's dwelling unit, but otherwise within the boundaries of the owner's premises, ensure that: (a) the vicious dog, cat or animal is muzzled so to prevent it from biting a person or animal; (b) the vicious dog, cat or animal is securely leashed on a leash which does not allow it to go beyond the Lot Line of the owner's lands; or (c) the vicious dog, cat or animal is confined within a secure structure in a good state of repair so as to prevent escape; and (d) a warning sign stating 'beware of dog' is posted in a conspicuous place so as to be visible from the road.

“5.5 Every owner of a vicious dog, cat or animal shall at all times when the vicious dog, cat or animal is not within the boundaries of the owner's premises; (a) keep the vicious dog, cat or animal under effective control of a responsible person on a leash held by the person; and (b) keep the vicious dog, cat or animal muzzled.”

In April, a woman I know was attacked and bitten by a very large dog while walking down the sidewalk on the 200 block of Second Street East.

The mammoth dog, weighing an easy 120 lbs., broke free from its inadequate leash and violently attacked her.

She sustained a gash of over five cm on her leg; spent over six hours in emergency to have it attended to, got a tetanus shot and had to take 875 mg of antibiotics daily for 10 days because of this vicious attack. The hospital reported the attack to officials.

Now, on Aug. 24, I was appalled to read on social media of a pizza delivery person being bitten by a dog from the same residence on the 200 block of Second Street East.

After an investigation, bylaw enforcement chose to circumvent all of Section 5 of the Animal Control Bylaw by:

  • ignoring their own definition of “vicious dog"—meaning a dog that has attacked or bitten a person, dog, cat or animal as determined by the bylaw enforcement officer in accordance with Section 5.1”;
  • choosing to not deem the dog as vicious;
  • asking the owners to muzzle the dog and ensure it was properly restrained for only 10 days; and,
  • failing to do anything to ensure the safety of anyone walking down the sidewalk.

Nowhere in the bylaw do I see anything about “asking" owners of a vicious dog to comply. What I see are the words "shall" and "requiring the owner to comply" which, in my opinion, means "do it” or charges will be laid.

Nowhere in the bylaw do I see that bylaw enforcement officers may use their discretion to enforce the bylaw. What I see are requirements to be enforced that are written in simple English.

I would hope that the town did not write this bylaw to simply put words on paper or to fulfill some municipal requirement. I would hope that this bylaw was written to actually ensure the safety of citizens.

The Town of Fort Frances website states:

“When bylaws are not followed the bylaw officers take appropriate actions such as laying charges under the provisions of the town bylaws.”

I respectfully request that our bylaw enforcement officers and CAO to actually do the job they are entrusted, and paid for, to do and enforce established bylaws. There is no discretion!

Rules/consequences are rules/consequences! It's that simple!

I find it to be both perplexing and outrageous that there would appear to be more repercussions to property owners who water their lawn on the wrong day than there are for property owners with a dog who has bitten someone walking down the sidewalk or a delivery person.

What will it take for the required rules/consequences of this bylaw to be properly administered and enforced by our bylaw enforcement officers and CAO?

Will it take a person being mauled, permanently disfigured or, possibly, killed by what is defined as a “vicious” dog?

If that is what it takes, we are living in very troubling times.

Sincerely,

J.A. Brandli

Fort Frances, Ont.

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