Council for the Rural Municipality of Ste. Anne is sending a strong message about animal abandonment by approving a by-law that will see significant fines be handed out.
During the council meeting where second and third reading were approved unanimously, Ward 5 councillor Brad Ingles noted that it is disturbing when animals have been tied up and starved, which is only one example of animal abandonment.
This new by-law was approved unanimously.
“We have seen an increase in unattended animals in our RM and this seemed to be the appropriate response,” Deputy Reeve Randy Eros says, “to create a bylaw that very much focused on the idea of ‘abandoning your animals is not the right thing to do.’”
He notes this issue is not new, and the growing number of cases makes it even more concerning.
“Pets are not wild animals, they don't have survival skills, they should not be at large. Our hope is that this bylaw will remind people of that. I mean, it carries with it as severe a penalty as we can provide under the provincial regulations, it's the maximum penalty of $1000. So, we're serious about it.”
For each animal that is abandoned, the person responsible can be fined $1000. For example, abandoning five kittens would result in a $5000 fine.
Eros says council hopes to see other municipalities join them in the fight against animal abandonment by issuing significant fines for this unacceptable behaviour.
“Like all other municipalities, we do have animal control bylaws that govern the rules of owning pets within the RM and having them stay on your property. And that all works," Eros says. "Sometimes animals get off their property, and with our rural animal management team and social networks, the dog gets home quickly. That all works reasonably well. This is the outside part of that, where animals just show up that aren't missing from your yard. They've been abandoned.”
How does council expect to find those responsible for abandoning an animal?
“We understand that people who are abandoning animals, they're looking over their shoulder when they're doing this,” says Eros. “Are we likely going to see a lot of reporting of this? No. But it's important to get the message out and have the tools to enforce it.”
Eros says this bylaw also includes provisions for situations when residents leave the municipality but leave their animals behind, abandoned.
“That happens as well. So, we're trying to look out for these domestic animals.”
He believes some people might be having a tough time caring for pets that were acquired during the pandemic when more time was spent at home. Eros says abandoning pets now that people are back in schools and workplaces is simply not acceptable.
There are options, he says, such as reaching out to animal shelters or connecting with social media groups about re-homing pets that can no longer be cared for.
Eros encourages anyone who knows of an abandoned animal to contact Rural Animal Management Services (RAMS), animal shelters, or the municipality.
Last year, Steinbach and Area Animal Rescue reported taking in 32 animals from the R.M. of Ste. Anne.
Rescue President Michelle Neufeld says, "We appreciate the deterrent effect of a fine for animal abandonment, as it could discourage irresponsible behaviour. It is great that the R.M. has stepped up, and hopefully set a standard for the others to follow."