City staff looks into waiving licensing fees for service dogs

Campbell River’s Megan Hurn has recently become the proud new owner of a registered diabetic alert service dog.

The dog, which was bred and trained by the Lions Foundation of Canada in Ontario, is trained to detect when Hurn’s blood sugar levels have dropped.

Shortly after acquiring her new dog, Hurn, wanting to honour her civic duty, went to City Hall to get an annual dog licence.  She said was surprised when she was charged the $20 fee.

“We were told in our training classes that in many jurisdictions, the licence fee is waived for service dogs,” Hurn wrote in a letter to city council. “Vancouver, Edmonton, Mississauga, Halifax and Toronto are but a few of the Canadian cities that licence service dogs at no cost.”

At the Jan. 11 council meeting, Coun. Michele Babchuk said after she first read Hurn’s letter, she immediately thought of putting forward a motion that council waive the fee for service dogs. But, she said after a second read-through, she thought city staff should weigh in first.

“I’m wondering now, when I read it again – and there was mention of other jurisdictions that waive the fee – if we shouldn’t maybe send this back to staff to look at so that we craft that policy more carefully and take a look at what other jurisdictions are doing,” Babchuk said.

Other communities have eliminated those fees because, as Hurn points out, the cost of maintaining a service dog is significant.

“They have certain requirements in their feeding, grooming and general care expenses that are above and beyond those of a pet dog,” Hurn wrote. “Any reduction in these (licensing) costs is very helpful to the budgets of those of us who have one of these amazing service dogs.

“As there are so few of us relying on certified service/working dogs in our city, I would ask that council consider eliminating the licensing fee for these animals.”

Council, taking into account Hurn’s request, agreed to have staff come back to council with a report that takes into account what other jurisdictions are doing when it comes to waiving licence fees and how it would impact the city.

Coun. Colleen Evans suggested the report also provide clarity on what defines a service dog.

“It was interesting, in doing some research, that also the definition of service dog is something I think should be included in the staff report because there was some discrepancies among jurisdictions about what exactly constitutes a service dog,” she said.

Mayor Andy Adams agreed.

“I fully concur. I think it’s appropriate to send this back to staff for a report and comment and take it into consideration.”