In less than a week, two Vancouver dog owners reported being tailed home by aggressive animal control enforcement for off-leash and licence violations. Murray Richardson (pictured) said the officer didn’t even identify himself.
Aggressive ticketing of off-leash and unregistered dogs in Vancouver have some owners feeling like they’re being harassed and that enforcement officers are taking their duties too far.
Tomiko Toy and boyfriend Murray Richardson recalled one incident earlier this month when an unknown man — who later turned out to be an enforcement officer — began taking photos of them at Kitsilano Beach.
The couple picked up their two dogs in a hurry and left for their car. All the while, the man kept pace, saying “I want to talk to you” several times without identifying himself.
An hour later, Richardson’s house shook at the force of a fist striking the front door. He suspected who it was, having known a friend who had dogs taken for not having proper tags.
He didn’t have tags for his pets, and they were also off-leash for several minutes.
“I went down there and they’d left $1,000 in tickets,” Richardson said, noting he’s owned the dogs for eight years and never had such an experience.
On Monday, another woman told 24 hours she was photographed and followed home in a 30-minute chase by the same animal control officer.
In Sarah Allan’s case, she had three dogs off-leash at Guelph Park — they, too, didn’t have tags — and when she recognized the uniform, Allan knew she was in trouble.
She started walking away, all the way up to 10th Avenue and Main Street, where she “ran through a yard and ducked through a fence” to hide.
“I sat there for a few minutes,” she said, and thinking enough time had passed, she got up — too early.
With the animal control officer still hot on her heels, Allan instead turned towards home and disappeared inside, believing she was now safe.
“He buzzed the building manager,” she said, now expecting at least $1,500 in tickets in the mail.
Both dog owners said off-leash parks were either too small or too far away. One compared the city’s dog licence system as a “cash grab” while the other didn’t register for privacy reasons.
In a statement, City of Vancouver said “there has not been a change in enforcement policy” for animal control.
“When approached by an Animal Control Officer, it is anticipated people will take the time to stop what they are doing and speak with the officer,” the city said. “However, this is not always the case.”
Fines under the bylaw are a minimum of $250 per offence. In contrast, a ticket for failing to stop at a red light is $167.
B.C. Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn said the officers don’t fall under the Police Act, so the only recourse would be to dispute the fines or to file complaints with the city.
“If people are concerned somebody is following them, these are not good signals,” she said on Wednesday, comparing the enforcement to “covert operations.”
“My goodness, we’re talking about a ticket for an off-leash dog, so let’s keep this proportionate.”