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Public hearing goes to the dogs

A professional dog trainer trying to start a doggy daycare asked council at a public hearing Tuesday night to change a proposed bylaw that she says would force the dogs to be cooped up inside.

Kimberly Dorrington approached the city months ago wanting to open a doggy daycare, but the city does not have the proper zonings to permit such a business.

City staff, following an approach taken by the City of Nanaimo, wrote up a new term – pet services – as an acceptable use in the Commercial Two (C-2), Commercial Four (C-4) and Industrial zones.

The problem for Dorrington is that although pet services is applied in the draft bylaw to each of the three zonings, the term “primarily enclosed” – which allows the dogs to be outside for up to three hours – is only being added to the Industrial zoning.

Under C-2 and C-4, pet services must be “wholly enclosed” which Dorrington said is unreasonable.

“We feel C-1 and C-2, to keep the dogs in the building and not even be allowed to let them go out to go to the bathroom is impossible,” she said.

Coun. Larry Samson, who was not in attendance at the public hearing, agreed with Dorrington at a council meeting Dec. 18 when staff first presented the pet services draft bylaw.

“Where do you take them when they have to use the bathroom, when you want to exercise the dogs?” Samson said.

“You’re in the middle of August and you’re expecting a business such as this to be wholly enclosed within a building? I think it’s unreasonable.”

A few days before the public hearing, city staff came back with a definition of “wholly” which clarified that the term “wholly enclosed” refers to the principal activities within the building (i.e. daycare).

It does not prevent dogs from being taken or walked off the premises for exercise, or taken outside to relieve themselves, according to a city staff report.

Dorrington said she understands “wholly” does not prevent her from taking the dogs outside for a minute to go to the bathroom or to take them off the premise to walk them, but added there’s no flexibility.

“It certainly does mean that the dogs must remain inside and does not allow me a quantified period of time I am allowed to have the dogs outside making noise (as in the definition of ‘primarily’ allowing for three total hours),” Dorrington said.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Dorrington asked council to reconsider the wording of the draft bylaw, which received first and second reading at the Dec. 18 council meeting.

“The one point I’m trying to make clear...is that I’m trying to strike ‘wholly’ from the definition,” she said.

“Yes this allows me to take dogs outside, but outside for what amount of time? It’s unclear. Hopefully council is able to strike ‘wholly’ and just leave ‘primarily.’”

Council deferred the issue until the next council meeting, Jan. 22. Coun. Claire Moglove, who made the motion for deferral, said council has an unwritten policy to wait before proceeding to third reading and possible adoption.

“It gives council time for reflection after hearing the public’s views before making a decision,” she said.

“It is a common practice in municipal governments to have that delay.”

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