Reaction to proposed changes to Maple Ridge animal control bylaws, which suggest classifying pit bulls as aggressive, has been swift and has come from across North America.
Maple Ridge Councillor Michael Morden said he hasn't seen such reaction to a municipal issue since the fate of Jackson Farm was being debated.
Of the more than 50 emails Morden said he's received, only one was in support of breed-specific language - all the others are against having a bylaw that targets specific breeds.
"I haven't seen this many emails on an issue in a long time," he said.
The proposed bylaw suggests that certain breeds of dog should be classified as "aggressive" dogs, specifically, pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and American pit bull terriers, and this would allow the municipality to restrict ownership.
The staff report about the proposed bylaw changes states that District staff and the SPCA receive complaints about aggression or bites by all types of breeds, but that "there is significant public discussion and fear of pit bull terriers and substantially similar dogs."
Morden likened the classification of certain breeds as dangerous to classifying people according to certain traits. Dogs should be "innocent until proven guilty," Morden said.
"I know people who own pit bulls and have the nicest dogs," Morden said.
However, when dogs are vicious, Morden said penalties should be "very harsh."
He would like a three-strike policy for irresponsible dog owners. The proposed animal control bylaw would impose a $500 fine for the first impoundment, and $1,000 for the second or subsequent impoundment.
Morden would like owners banned from getting a dog license after a third attack by their dog.
The staff report on animal control also suggests not allowing new pet stores to sell rabbits while currently existing pet stores would be grandfathered to allow them to keep selling them if they're spayed or neutered.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said he was "somewhat disappointed" that the focus of the reaction has been on the breed-specific language and not the other items in the report that should tighten up animal control, for example, regulation of pet stores, and the fact that seniors would get a discount on dog licenses.
Daykin said he wasn't convinced that breed-specific language was the appropriate way to deal with aggressive dogs, noting that "biters come in all shapes and sizes" depending on how they're trained and treated.
"How do you legislate being a good pet owner?" Daykin said.
A draft bylaw is expected to be before council in September and there will be a chance for public input.