Capital Regional District directors will consider a bylaw amendment to end the decades-old practice of compensating farmers for livestock lost to marauding dogs.
It’s a move that’s wrong-headed, says sheep farmer John Buchanan of Parry Bay Sheep Farm in Metchosin, who noted that while losses to dogs have become infrequent in recent years, they still happen and can be costly to farmers, while a rather insignificant cost to the CRD.
Buchanan said one of the original purposes of CRD dog-licence fees was to cover the farmers’ losses. The CRD accepts responsibility for dog control and collects funds for that purpose, he said, adding that the province provides compensation for confirmed kills of livestock by wildlife such as cougars or bears.
“It is a community issue that can be covered by dog licences, so why shouldn’t it be used to help out the people who are being damaged?”
But Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks, who chairs the Electoral Areas Committee proposing the animal control bylaw amendment, says his constituents shouldn’t be footing the bill for lambs or goats killed in a different jurisdiction, such as Pender Island or Metchosin.
“Someone will lose some livestock on Salt Spring Island and a person in Port Renfrew has to compensate them. I’ve always disagreed with this. That’s why we have insurance,” Hicks said.
“This is an old, old policy and I think it’s a policy [created] before insurance and everything else.”
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, however, said it would be a mistake to stop compensating farmers for livestock dog kills.
“There’s so much lip-service given at the CRD [to] supporting farming and when you look at the actual payouts, it’s insignificant compared to the amount of money we throw around down there,” Ranns said.
The CRD has processed 10 claims in the past 15 years, staff say, noting that the two most recent claims have been for $2,043.75 and $4,500, respectively.
In separate reports to directors, CRD staff are also recommending compensation payments of $1,125 to Buchanan for four lambs that were killed and one sheep that had to be euthanized after an October dog attack.
They are also recommending payment of $1,012.50 to Lisa Strohschein of Pender Island for the loss of three goats to dog attacks on Aug. 12 and Sept. 5.
If the amendment is passed, no claims made after Jan. 16 will be paid.
Under the existing bylaw, the CRD compensates farmers for 75 per cent of the value of the livestock — up to $750 an animal — for losses due to dog attacks.
The CRD only compensates for the livestock losses if the attacks are carried out by an unknown dog or dogs. If the farmer knows the owner of a dog responsible for the attack, it is farmer’s responsibility to seek compensation.
Ranns said the compensation requirement was intended to be an incentive to ensure every effort is made to track down the dogs’ owners.
“There’s no cost to the CRD if they can track down the dog. But there is a cost to the CRD if they can’t,” Ranns said.
CRD staff say processing the claims can be costly, as a CRD staff member, along with a veterinarian, typically has to investigate the report in person.
“The cost of this process can be greater than $1,000 when all staff, veterinary and administrative time is considered, depending on the location and nature of the claim, not inclusive of the compensation claim itself,” the staff report says.
CRD staff say removing the provision “will shift the responsibility of compensation onto the individual livestock owner to insure their animals, which most already do.”
“It will allow budgeted funds to be spent on animal-control activities, rather than providing a large potential liability, with no annual maximum,” the staff report says.
But Buchanan said when you take into account deductibles and escalating premiums for filing claims, private insurance for dog kills isn’t practical.
The other problem is that if claims are recurring, the insurance company will not want to continue coverage, he said. “They don’t want to deal with small amounts frequently. So I can buy insurance for cougar kills and bear kills and dog kills, and pretty sure [eventually] they won’t insure me.”
Source – https://www.timescolonist.com