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Victoria animal control officers allowed to enter private property without owners' consent

Feb 23 2012

Victoria Animal Control Services officers have been given authority by the city council to enter a private property without the owner's consent.

The bylaw approved by the council last week does not mean animal control officers will be barging into people's homes without notice, city lawyer Rob Woodland said.

A particular process is required under the bylaw, he added.

"We have requirements as to animal welfare, so it might be necessary for an animal control officer to inspect private property to ensure the proper requirements for the care of the animal are being abided by," Woodland said.

Officers would knock on the door and request access. If turned down, they would give notice to inspect the premises on a certain date. If access is again refused, officers would obtain a warrant and perhaps ask for assistance from Victoria police, Woodland said.

The amendment brings the city in line with other jurisdictions, Woodland said.

Half of the calls animal control officers attend are in public spaces, where the process would not be necessary.

"When they do respond to private property, it's typically because we've received a complaint," Woodland said.

The bylaw only applies to officers from Victoria Animal Control Services, which handles animal control for the city.

Erika Paul, an animal control officer with the B.C. SPCA, said she and her colleagues have to knock on doors to get permission to enter private property "unless we're entering with a search warrant."

The SPCA does not need permission in cases where they inspect properties where animals are for sale or exhibition.

Nor does the SPCA need permission if an animal is in critical need of medical care. This occurred recently when a cat, hit by a car, ran into a backyard to hide, said Paul, adding that cases like this do not happen very often.

Saanich animal control officers operate under different rules.

"My understanding is our [animal control officers] have access to the exterior portion of property, not the interior, without permission," said Sgt. Dean Jantzen of Saanich police, speaking for the municipality's animal control services.

"Part of their mandate is also animal welfare, so they could be checking dogs in backyards and stuff like that."

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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