Being a Responsible Pet Owner

Being a Responsible Pet Owner means Protecting Pets and People Responsibly

As a Coquitlam council watcher in the early nineties, I see one topic still appearing on the municipal agendas today: irresponsible pet owners.

Owning a dog is a joy – and it is also a big responsibility. Your best friend for life is there for you in good times and bad. It behooves you to be there for Angel and Buddy, too. Part of being a responsible pet owner is knowing your pet-related laws. Pet-related laws can be found in four different places – local bylaws, provincial laws, the Criminal Code, and common law. In addition, you’ll need to know the pet-related bylaws if you live in a strata corporation.

Local Bylaws to Help you be a Responsible Pet Owner

Local bylaws change from city to city (and strata to strata). Pet bylaws usually cover licensing, leashes, safety, health, and waste issues. In Vancouver, for example, dogs are not allowed on streets or in public places unless they are tagged, and on leashes with a length of 8 feet or less. A notable exception, of course, is the off-leash dog park, many of which exist throughout our Tri-Cities. Check your local municipality’s website for off-leash parks in your neighbourhood.

Animal control bylaws often discuss aggressive dogs, breeds known to bite or those who have previously bitten another animal or person without provocation. These dogs are required to be muzzled, kept indoors, in pens, or banned altogether. An aggressive dog that has bitten someone could end up in the pound, bringing a fine to the owner, veterinary costs incurred or, worse, euthanizing the animal. Loose, unlicensed dogs will land in the pound as well. It’s clear you are not doing your dog any favours by remaining unlicensed or unrestrained.

Health bylaws pertaining to dogs require that no animals are permitted inside restaurants except in the case of service animals. Additionally, a significant health concern is animal waste. Did you know that, in Vancouver, you could be fined anywhere up to $2000 for not scooping that poop? You are of course required to clean up your animal’s waste on any property that is not yours.

Vancouver’s animal control bylaw regulates the noise of barking dogs, too. If your neighbours complain that your dog’s barking disturbs their peace and quiet, you could end up with a significant fine. We will discuss local Tri-Cities bylaws in an upcoming post. (We will be posting a comparison of local pet bylaws in Port Moody, Coquitlam, and Port Coquitlam in the coming weeks, so check back often!)

For your pet’s sake, it’s a good idea for you to check your city’s website for the most recent bylaws related to pets.

Provincial Law and the Criminal Code

Legalities become even more severe when entering into the realms of provincial law and the Criminal Code. The BC Livestock Act, for example, states that anyone can kill a dog on the spot if it’s seen running at large and attacking or viciously chasing cattle, goats, horses, sheep, swine, or game. Additionally, under section 49 of the Community Charter, local governments may seize and impound dangerous dogs. The local government may apply to provincial court for an order to destroy a dangerous dog and does not require a specific local bylaw to exercise these powers. (Both of these laws are available at

Injuries to animals and by animals are covered in the Criminal Code and common law. Injury to and neglect of animals are actions punishable by law. This includes willfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to any animal, or neglecting or failing to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter, and care for it. You can also be found liable if your dog attacks someone else and it is shown in court that you did not take reasonable steps to prevent your dog from injuring others. If you are sued in civil court, you may have to pay damages for the injuries your dog caused.

Is allowing a domesticated pet to roam unrestrained any different than allowing an infant to do the same?

Being a responsible pet owner requires much more than playing fetch and giving loads of belly rubs. Take proper care of your dog, ensure your pet is licensed and leashed, and be a good neighbour. This way, you, Angel or Buddy, and your neighbours can enjoy your furry friend happily for years to come.

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