City staff recommend waiving fees for service dogs

City staff are recommending council exempt the owners of service dogs from having to pay licensing fees thanks to the efforts of a Campbell River woman.

Megan Hurn, who recently acquired a registered diabetic alert service dog, wrote to city council last month to express her surprise at being charged the $20 licensing fee.

Hurn explained that in her training classes, she was told that many jurisdictions waive the licence fee for service dogs and she wondered why Campbell River was not one of them.

Upon reading Hurn’s letter Jan. 11, council asked city staff to look into the matter.

Karl Read, bylaw enforcement officer, came back to council at its Tuesday night meeting – which took place after the Mirror went to press – recommending that changes be made.

“Mindful of the service to the community that such dogs provide, it is proposed that dog licence fees be waived for guide and service dogs, RCMP dogs, and Search and Rescue dogs,” Read wrote in a report to council.

He acknowledged that Vancouver and Kelowna waive the fee for licensing guide and service dogs while Nanaimo doesn’t require guide dogs – or RCMP dogs – to be licensed at all.

Hurn said that’s because there is a significant cost associated with maintaining a service dog.

And Read noted that it’s not much of a loss to the city.

“The economic impact on the city is expected to be minimal,” Read wrote. “The BC Security Programs Division of the Ministry of Justice … advises there are currently four certified guide and service dogs in Campbell River.

“There is one RCMP dog domiciled in Campbell River and one certified Search and Rescue dog. A second Search and Rescue Dog is in the process of training for certification.”

Council was expected to make a decision on staff’s recommendation at Tuesday’s council meeting, after the Mirror’s press deadline.

At the same time, city staff were also asking council to exempt guide and service dogs, RCMP dogs and Search and Rescue dogs from the city bylaw that bans dogs from areas of parks, Discovery Pier, tot lots and playgrounds. That exemption would also allow those dogs to be unleashed to properly fulfill their role, “provided the dog is under effective control of a competent person and is performing its function as a Guide and Service dog, RCMP dog or Search and Rescue dog,” Read said.