A new bylaw in Fort McMurray has some professional dog walkers worried.
On Tuesday, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo council passed a bylaw that limits the number of dogs a person can have in an off-leash area to four. There is no limit on how many dogs one person can walk on leash.
For the last six years Ann Kidston has run a pet services business in Fort McMurray.
Kidston is the owner of Ann’s Pet Services Ltd., said her dog walkers typically take between four and six dogs to the park, and during special circumstances they’ve taken up to eight. She expects the new bylaw is going to hurt her business.
“We are professional dog walkers,” said Kidston. “This is our livelihood. This is our only source of income.”
Kidston said she supports the new bylaw, and said many of the new regulations will be good for animal control, but she’d like to see an exception made for professionals.
Professional dog walkers, Kidston said, have more experience and training with dogs that helps them handle them better in emergency situations, like a dog fight.
Deanne Bergey, director of community services for the municipality, presented the bylaw to council.
The bylaw was created after seven community engagement sessions, online survey and models used in other municipalities. Bergey said the bylaw is designed to improve safety, based on concerns from residents.
“The reality is if there was something going on, if you have five or six dogs, people — whether they’re a professional dog walker or just your average owner — aren’t going to be able to reign in those animals.”
Bergey said one of the biggest concerns from residents was that they didn’t feel safe in the public dog parks because some people had up to 12 dogs under their care.
Bill Leonard presented to council and has made numerous complaints to the municipality about pet service companies in the parks.
“These pet services are taking over the dog park,” said Leonard. “These dog parks have become these pet services’ job sites.”
He said they have no control over their dogs if something happens and thinks a three or four dog limit per person would be reasonable
Patricia Kostner was at the dog park in Beacon Hill on Friday. She said she brings her elderly lab Mia to the park every week and has never had a problem with the large number of dogs.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to limit the number of dogs,” said Kostner.
“Yes, there is a lot of dogs, but I’ve never seen any issues with it.”
Council now has 90 days to make any changes or amendments to the bylaw.
In the meantime, Kidston is sending an open invitation to the councillors to go to the dog park with her.
“Spend some time with your professional, licensed dog walkers in town.”