The city’s bylaw services get about 2,300 complaints annually since 2012. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)

It’s a zoo: Animal issues make up most Whitehorse bylaw complaints

‘We’re not out there looking for it just because we don’t have the capacity to do that’

Animal issues make up the majority of complaints Whitehorse’s bylaw services department receives every year, according to data provided by the city.

Of the roughly 2,300 complaints bylaw services fielded annually since 2012, about 70 per cent are related to issues like dogs and cats at large, dogs off-leash and excessive barking. The department also gets the occasional call about livestock — perhaps a horse, cow or pig — that has escaped its enclosure and wandered into city limits.

Animal-related complaints crop up so often, in fact, that two of the department’s five general-duty investigators are primarily designated to animal control, bylaw services supervisor Tom Wyers said.

Other common complaints include “maintenance” issues, which can include everything from an unmowed lawn to excessive noise, and traffic and parking problems.

Depending on the situation, some complaints may be resolved the same day, while others take several weeks of investigation. Investigators have about 30 files on the go at any given time.

The department received 2,310 complaints in 2012, 2,423 complaints in 2013, 2,561 complaints in 2014, 2,154 complaints in 2015 and 2,226 complaints in 2016. As of the end of July this year, bylaw services had fielded 1,397 calls for service.

What investigators don’t often do, though, are patrols looking for bylaw infractions, something not everyone’s happy about. Long-time Porter Creek resident Marlene Koppang spoke at Monday’s standing committee meeting, expressing frustration at cyclists and skateboarders she said she often sees riding on sidewalks downtown, despite bylaws forbidding them to ride on sidewalks in an area bounded on the north by Wood Street, the east by Front Street on the south by Elliott Street, and on the west by Fifth Avenue.

In a phone interview, Koppang said she’s seen the bylaws broken “numerous times” and pedestrians nearly hit by cyclists or skateboarders, but has never seen a bylaw officer around to enforce the rules. She added she’s never called in a complaint because by the time an investigator got there, the offender would be long gone.

“When you see this going on and you don’t see anyone doing something about it, to me, it’s crazy,” she said. “I don’t know what they’re doing with their time.”

Wyers, however, said the department simply doesn’t have the resources to do patrols or station investigators in one place to wait for something to happen.

“Like any other department in the city, we’re a smaller department and we’re aptly employed with the number of complaints that we get coming in to respond to,” he said. “Officers are expected to be proactive if they come across something, but we’re not out there looking for it just because we don’t have the capacity to do that.”

Bylaw services also responds to all complaints it receives, Wyers added, although some responses may take longer than others.

“It all comes down to priority,” he explained. “An aggressive dog as opposed to someone not cutting their grass — which one are we going to work on first? It’s all priority-based, but all complaints get followed up on. People may not like the speed it gets done, but like any enforcement agency, that’s the nature of the beast.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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