Quille Kaddon still can’t come to terms with the petty mindset the City of North Vancouver displayed recently in denying an exemption for a dog licence for three therapy dogs in North Vancouver.
Kaddon is the program manager for Vancouver Ecovillage, a non-profit that enables ordinary pets to become therapy dogs after a four-month rigorous training program. Kaddon says she was shocked when she found out that City of North Vancouver has denied a dog licence exemption for three therapy dogs which are in North Vancouver.
At a recent council meeting, the council voted to not grant an exemption for therapy dogs. Instead, the council is writing a letter to the province asking that it create legislation for therapy dogs in the same manner that it regulates the guide dogs. The city does provide free dog licences to the guide and service dogs because there are certificate programs and it is regulated through provincial legislation.
Once the province creates a similar legislation, then the staff would come back to the council and discuss the exemption for therapy dogs. Staff said without the provincial legislation, the front counter staff would find it hard to determine whether a dog is a therapy dog and even though there are only three therapy dogs, there is potential for future abuse if the exemption to a dog licence is granted. The city, staff told the council, could not limit the acceptance of therapy dog certificates to any single organisation. If more than one organisation started giving out such certificates, more people might apply for exemptions, the staff said.
This kind of bureaucratic buck-passing angers Kaddon who says the council should be encouraging more therapy dogs rather than limiting them. She says the exemption wasn’t just about money as it can easily take up to $10,000 to properly train a therapy dog. “It wasn’t about getting an exemption of $50 or such, but really what we were looking at was a pat on the back on the great work therapy dogs are doing in the city,” she says.
Kaddon says officials she dealt with never told her that they would recommend the council pass the issue to the province because she would have told them to not even bother. It could easily take the province a decade to create such a law, and even that is not certain.
“It is very unlikely that the provincial government would invest time to build a certification program for therapy dogs that provide comfort in the community, when they already struggle enormously with simply doing the testing for service dogs. Although there is a great demand, there aren’t enough knowledgeable examiners to carry out that testing in BC and service dogs mean a matter of life or death to their handlers. This is not the case with therapy dogs since they offer a remarkably different kind of community service,” she says.
Kaddon says she is pleased that not all cities have the same regressive mindset as the City of Coquitlam has approved their request for a dog exemption. “Regardless of how much we pay for licensing fees, what approval actually does is to send out a clear message to people to do more community work and get their dogs trained to help people. The results are fewer dog bites, less nuisance barking and greater community spirit and cohesiveness, which is essentially what Animal Control in each municipality should strive for,” she said.
Kaddon says she has seen first-hand the therapeutic work dogs can do with their unconditional love and affection. Her own dog, a French Bulldog named Vita, is intuitively aware of people who are in pain and shows remarkable empathy in these situations. “Off-leash Vita will walk very slowly next to a patient with arthritis or who is just after surgery. She will lick patients with internal injuries in an attempt to heal them. In a group of people, she will usually accompany the last person in the group to make sure no one is left behind,” says Vita’s handler. “No amount of training can teach that kind of altruism to an animal. That’s why therapy dogs are born and not made.”
Kaddon says the decision has angered several local citizens and she hopes the council will follow the lead of Port Coquitlam and reverse their decision and encourage more therapy dogs in the city. She says city routinely grants all kinds of permits and waivers for films and other events.
“We request that North Vancouver City Council revisit their decision and consider giving the therapy dogs living in your municipality a little recognition of their community service through a fee waiver for dog licences,” she said.