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Pets, nuisance feeders and beekeepers targeted by new regulations

City of Victoria overhauls animal control bylaws
John Defayette’s beehives stand only a couple of metres from his neighbour’s house. Under proposed new bylaws

Whether you love to feed the gulls or can’t stand it when your neighbour does, Victoria’s new animal control bylaws will likely put a stop to the controversial practice.

Seagulls aren’t the only target. Under the proposed rules, given first nod by council Thursday, people will be forbidden from feeding pigeons, crows, deer, squirrels, raccoons and feral rabbits. Fines, however, will likely be complaint driven.

“Feeding and watching birds can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby,” according to the city staff report. “However, feeding pigeons, crows and seagulls can also be a public nuisance that attracts rodents.”

The measures are part of a larger overhaul of the city’s animal control bylaws launched in 2010, with an aim to tighten up animal welfare and animal nuisance regulations.

New bylaws also target bee-keeping, which until now has been regulated purely by common sense.

Fernwood beekeeper John Defayette finds acceptable the recommendations to provide water to the bees and good maintenance of the hives – both intended to reduce the possibility of swarming.

He objects, however, to the recommendation to keep hives at least 7.6 metres from the property line, unless enclosed by a 1.8-metre fence or hedge. His yard is too narrow to abide by the proposed setback regulations.

While the rule intends in part to alleviate conflict with neighbours fearful of bees, Defayette said there’s no reason to be afraid.

Unlike wasps and hornets, honey bees rarely sting, he said. “She’s not interested in us at all ... the only reason she’d sting you is if you attacked the hive.”

Defayette’s own four hives sit roughly two metres from his neighbour’s house. He’s received no complaints in the eight years he’s kept bees. He is one of roughly 12 beekeepers within Victoria.

The city receives between four and five bee-related complaints each summer, mostly from the Fairfield neighbourhood.

Pet stores will also be affected by the new bylaws, should they receive final approval by council in February.

The bylaws would require pet stores to provide a clean bill of health by a veterinarian for dogs as well as a record of medical treatment, including vaccinations. The stores must also keep records of where they purchased each animal, and must disclose the information to an animal control bylaw officer.

“I’ve had numerous e-mails from people wanting us to ban the sale of animals from pet stores altogether,” said Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who is the go-to member on council for all animal-related concerns. “(City) staff has tried to find a middle ground.”

At least one pet store owner is concerned the rules will not affect pet sales through classified ads, whether print or online.

“Unfortunately ... we can only regulate things to do with businesses in the City of Victoria,” said Thornton-Joe.

The proposed bylaws also contain provisions for animal welfare.

No longer will dog owners be able to exercise their pets from a motor vehicle, or a bicycle unless the rider can maintain both hands on the handlebars. It’s a practice that generates up to three complaints a year.

Impoundment fees, and daily maintenance fees for animals in the pound, will also rise. The increase will help cover a roughly $400,000 shortfall between animal control expenses and revenue.

Up next, expect to see bylaw recommendations against leaving a dog unattended in a vehicle.

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