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Pemberton setting up pound bylaw to deal with horses

Animals have become a public safety issue

The Village of Pemberton is setting up a pound bylaw as a way of dealing with a herd of 60 horses that is currently traversing the highway from Mount Currie.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said Village staff will spend the next few weeks drafting a bylaw that would allow private property owners to create a pound on their properties that would allow them to store or care for stray animals until they're claimed.

"We would have to look after the animals for a period of time," he said. "It's not just a matter of containing, then posting notice and there you go," said Sturdy.

"You have to look after them, you have to provide them a certain quality of care and obviously we have to have all partners on side as well."

The initiative comes after Pemberton began seeing the horses, which are believed to come from Mount Currie, travel along the highway to the Ravens Crest property, an area that the animals migrate to as their winter grazing grounds.

The horses are creating a public safety issue because they can appear suddenly on the highway as people are driving at speeds of up to 80 kilometres an hour and can't see the animals in time to stop for them. It can also be dark and foggy along the highway.

Last year, two horses were killed on the highway after collisions with vehicles.

Sturdy said the Village is also looking at some bylaw work being down by the Lower Nicola Indian Band near Merritt, which has a regulation in place that's similar to what Pemberton is looking at. This would provide a basis for Pemberton's bylaw once it comes forward for approval.

Sturdy isn't yet sure of the cost associated with setting up and operating a pound but he said that would come forward through the staff report.

"We accept that there is a cost associated with this," he said. "We're not pleased to be absorbing that cost, we hope to see that we have partners who are going to contribute to this, but nonetheless, how do we put a price on human life?

"This is a significant public safety issue is what it comes down to, and an animal welfare issue, so we're not in a situation that's acceptable in the longer term."

Sgt. Eric Rochette of Pemberton's RCMP detachment recently met with representatives of the Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police, the Mount Currie Band, the SPCA and the ministries of transportation and forestry, and said all are trying to discuss solutions for the horses.

"I know the SPCA with the (Mount Currie Band) Chief and Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police wanted to meet with some of the owners of the horses and try to find a solution that would involve a way to move the horses to the city and sell them, but that would cost a lot of money," he said.

"I know it was discussed as well as sending a letter to all livestock owners, saying you have a week to make sure your animals are properly secured, and if it's not taken care of within a certain date, the date wasn't decided at that meeting, but we were all in agreement it should be fairly soon."

Rochette said it's possible that some of the horses don't belong to anyone, while Sturdy added that selling the horses could mean they would be sold to be slaughtered.

"Once the animals are sold at auction, they are sold to the highest bidder," said Sturdy. "That's the process for the auctioneer, there's no follow up in terms of what happens with those animals. That's a risk, quite certainly."