Sona, Steven Bedford’s dog, was deemed vicious and an enclosure had to be built oh the property for her to be outside. (Photo Courtesy of Steven Bedford’s Facebook)

Sona, Steven Bedford’s dog, was deemed vicious and an enclosure had to be built oh the property for her to be outside. (Photo Courtesy of Steven Bedford’s Facebook)

Town of Sylvan Lake’s Animal Control Bylaw, communication under fire

“They have responded to my emails but they have not once answered my questions,” Steven Bedford says

A local dog owner is concerned the Town of Sylvan Lake’s communication is lacking when dealing directly with residents.

A Sylvan Lake man says the Town is refusing to answer his questions about the vicious animal bylaw and the required enclosure.

Steven Bedford says he has been attempting to work with the Town since March of this year to get answers about what is required based specifically on the bylaw.

“They have responded to my emails but they have not once answered my questions,” Bedford said.

The months of questions and emails back and forth started with an incident earlier in the year, where his dog, Sona, broke a window screen, got out of the house and attacked another dog.

Because of this, Sona was declared a vicious animal.

According to the Animal Control Bylaw, the owner must ensure the animal is confined indoors on the property. When not indoors, the animal must be in a locked enclosure, pen or other structure.

The enclosure must be made to “prevent the escape of the vicious animal and the entry of any person not in possession or control of the vicious animal.”

Bedford says the isse is not that his dog was declared a vicious animal, it is what material should be used to build the enclosure for the dog.

“We spent more than $3,000 building an enclosure… The first time we put a heavy duty tarp over the top and that was not enough so we had to do more,” he said.

“I asked where in the bylaw it says the enclosure has to be built with solid material like wood or steel, and never got an answer.”

Bedford claims he was following the bylaw which states, the enclosure must “have secure sides and a secure top, and if it has no bottom secured to the sides, the sides must be embedded into the ground to a minimum depth of 30 centimetres.”

Wally Ferris, CAO for the Town of Sylvan Lake, says he and the Town have answered all questions from Bedford and considers the matter closed.

“Mr. Bedford has indicated that we haven’t answered his questions, but we have. He doesn’t like the answers, but they have been given,” Ferris said.

When speaking about the bylaw, Ferris says it is clear that an enclosure with a solid floor and solid roof is required.

A tarp, no matter how thick or industrialized it may be is still a tarp, he says, and an animal can still get through it.

Ferris said the Town gave the examples of wood and tin to be used for the enclosure when speaking with Bedford.

“A tarp does not meet the intent of a bylaw… When writing bylaws they are written with intent because we cannot list every little thing it may involve, it just isn’t possible,” Ferris said, referencing Section 90 of the Animal control Bylaw.

Bedford says in the beginning he worked well with the Town and bylaw officers, and had met with Ferris and other members of Town staff on different occasions to discuss the problems in person.

However, he feels like his specific questions regarding the bylaw and enclosures have not been answered since first asking.

He feels like the Town has labeled him a nuisance or problematic.

“Residents need to feel comfortable coming forward to share their experiences, constructive feedback and ideas regarding improving the communication, bylaws and services within this community. Through the voice of a community, needs and concerns can be identified and issues can be improved upon,” Bedford said.

He has suggested, and the Town has agreed, to review and amend the Animal Control Bylaw, because it is “unfair and unenforceable.”

Ferris says he has agreed to review the bylaw in 2021. He continued to say the bylaw has not been reviewed in about five years, and the Town likes to review and amend bylaws roughly in that time, to ensure it is still effective for the community.

“What is important to us is the safety of our residents…” Ferris said.