- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Whether or not you want your neighbour to get a third dog, you may have an interest in the process that allows your neighbour to have that dog after today's City council meeting.
Back in April, an Owen Sound couple approached the City's Corporate Services Committee with a request to increase the allowable number of dogs per household from two to three, citing our overcrowded animal shelters and plenty of green space.
The City staff is recommending the change to the by-law be approved tonight. The full report is available here.
Like all by-laws, the main purpose is not to regulate responsible citizens, but to give enforcement power over less responsible residents.
"It is important to remember that these types of regulatory by-laws are designed to control for bad dog owners and not for those who might easily be able to raise multiple dogs without issues." - Curtiss Law, Deputy City Clerk
The staff report includes both potential concerns: "complaints about feces being left in public areas, noise and other nuisance caused by dogs and the potential for less shared space in many residential areas due to increased canine presence (according to the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords are unable to limit animals)                                    and potential benefits of the change - "an increase in adoption of rescue animals, attracting more dog owners to the City and increased licensing revenue."

We at the Owen Sound Hub highlight this sort of change in our community not to take a position on one side or the other (believe us, you will know when we are taking a stand), but to show you that the process leading to a change may not be quite as open, transparent and well-communicated as the City said it would be when this Council was elected.
The 2015 five-year Strategic Plan was said to be "evidence of Council's commitment to have open communication, collaboration and cooperation among our community", yet residents continue to be surprised when decisions are made that they did not even realize were on the table. This month's paving of the west side trail in Harrison Park is another example.
We are not suggesting for a moment that every decision in a community should go to a plebiscite or a public meeting. We have a representative democracy, and public representation on our City committees.
But we do believe that if issues being considered – and the timeline - were shared with the public somewhere other than in the agendas and minutes of Civiweb, the different perspectives, impacts, experience and expertise of the community would be brought to bear on issues which affect our quality of life. Residents could have conversations with their representatives; present them with research and data.
The decisions might ultimately remain the same, or they might be amended for the better or delayed for further study, but the process would be more collaborative and inclusive.
Might there be a better process for making community decisions? Let's have that conversation.

Editor's note: Denis Langlois of the Sun Times did an excellent article about the dog by-law about six weeks ago.


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