dogs in spring 

By Amy Fendley As the heat of the spring sun finally melts the silt-covered roadside snowpack, layers of snow disappear to reveal... heaps of dog faeces. Snow hid the unsightly mess all winter, but things aren’t so hidden anymore. It’s an offence to allow a dog to deposit waste on any public or private property, unless the owner immediately takes steps to remove it and dispose of it in a sanitary manner. Moreover, "It’s basically appalling," says Kimberly Lord, an animal control bylaw enforcement officer for the RMOW. "Certain sections of Dog Owner Bylaw 525, 1986 are very difficult to enforce because we can’t always witness the offence occurring, although we have had the grounds for charges based on a reported observation of a violation," Lord says. The municipality is considering providing dog waste receptacles — "doggy bags" — along the valley trail. However, Lord says this won’t prevent dog owners from dumping bags beside the bins and that the community needs to responsibly police themselves. "People don’t realize they have to clean up after their dog. Their dog must be licensed, dogs have to be on a leash except in the designated off-leash areas like the doggie beach. They’re not supposed to let their dog bark uncontrollably whether they are home or not, and their dog has to be provided with the proper food and shelter from the elements," says Lord. Animal control officers estimate there are between 1,200 and 1,500 dogs in the community. Lord says this summer the bylaw department will be aggressively ensuring all dogs are licensed, even if it means issuing fines, warning or offence notices, or municipal tickets to disobedient dog owners. Lord recently seized a six week-old puppy from a trailer in Day Skier Lot 4. The puppy hadn’t received any shots, was undernourished, had a belly full of worms, and was at risk of disease. "To all the young people who want to get a dog, I’d say to them, ‘get a life, not a dog’," said Lord. "They think it’s cool, but they aren’t aware that when a person takes on an animal it should be for the life of the animal. What makes them think they can support a dog, if they can’t even support themselves? "A lot of dog owners don’t spay or neuter their animals, which just contributes to the population of unwanted animals as well. It’s not fair to these animals getting bounced around from home to home, they get separation anxiety." Animal control officers will be keeping an eye out for badly behaved and unsociable dogs. "An unsociable dog is one that can’t handle going anywhere or being around anyone. It’s not a dog to visit our public areas," warns Lord. "Unless restrained and properly muzzled for the protection of people and other animals." Another problem that will be addressed this summer is the "clothesline" accident: people who walk or jog their dogs while biking or roller blading and the leash cuts another walker or rider off. But the problem isn’t all dogs and their owners. What about a duck with a hook in its mouth, a goose that hits a wire, a 4-foot iguana that climbs a park batting cage, a birthday goat abandoned on a construction site with no food or water wearing panties, a missing parrot, or ferret? The animal control officers has had to deal with them all, although Lord says animal control officers do not act the part of the SPCA. Although they’ve had a few unusual dealings with various creatures, it’s above and beyond their call of duty. Often footing the bill for irresponsible pet owners are local veterinarians and WAG (Whistler Animals Galore). Cats are another off-loaded problem because the municipality has no facilities to keep them, and volunteer-driven WAG is left with the responsibility of finding homes for them. "Muni has no facilities for cats so they count on WAG, whose facilities are strapped at best," says Dr. David Lane of Coast Mountain Veterinary Services. "WAG is trying to find homes for these animals, but they may not be able to meet the load. The municipality should take more responsibility for them." Pets should be taken to the vet for an annual check-up and should receive a booster shot to prevent the transmission of diseases. "There is a high level of interaction among Whistler dogs," says Lane. "It’s important to monitor your pet for things like lice and distemperment. There is no vaccination for lice, which is especially high in Alpine. In Pemberton and Mount Currie there are cases of distemperment that stem from dogs being within close proximity to wild coyotes." Coyotes come into populated areas to feed on cats, spreading lice and parvo, a fatal disease that is spread through faecal matter and can live in the ground for up to a year. "No one’s vaccinating the coyotes," says Lane. "All it takes for a dog to contract the disease is a walk along a coyote path, and a sniff at the ground. If they’re not vaccinated, they’re in trouble."

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