New bylaws that establish livestock compensation services for each of the Capital Regional District’s three unincorporated communities were approved at the CRD’s Electoral Areas Committee meeting last Wednesday.
The bylaws, which must receive ministerial approval and then go through the CRD Board to be finalized, set up a funding mechanism to compensate farmers whose livestock has been killed by dogs when no specific dogs or owners can be confirmed to be responsible. The bylaws set a maximum annual compensation of $3,000 each for the Salt Spring, Southern Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca areas, to be funded in each area through that community’s tax requisition. The new program will go into effect in 2022.
“Basically it seems like a good approach,” Salt Spring director Gary Holman said at the EAC meeting. “We’re retaining the overhead aspects and still offering compensation, satisfying all concerns.”
Compensation previously came through the animal control/bylaw enforcement branch, which collects dog licensing fees in the electoral areas. Staff had recommended ending the program since there was no budget assigned to compensation funds. The farming communities in each of the electoral areas wished to continue the program, but there was some concern about the levels of compensation required by different areas, especially in Juan de Fuca.
“I felt that Juan de Fuca didn’t have any claims and we might be paying for others,” electoral area director Mike Hicks explained during the June 9 meeting.
Hicks suggested a maximum compensation amount of $1,000 would be more than enough for his community.
The amount needed on Salt Spring was a more difficult question. Staff reported $3,000 would be sufficient for most years on record, although there have been “peak” kill years with higher amounts needed in the past.
The Salt Spring Island Farmers’ Institute wrote a letter to Holman and CRD Bylaw Enforcement chief Don Brown earlier this month asking them to take action to prevent dog attacks on sheep, noting these had become particularly frequent and vicious over the past spring. The institute further requested the CRD address the compensation amount offered for livestock losses, which they say hasn’t kept up to market rates.
“There is no compensation offered to the farmer for veterinary fees, loss of future income, [or] time spent caring for injured animals, to say nothing of the mental anguish. There needs to be a review of this compensation to properly reflect today’s market value,” Farmers’ Institute president Marguerite Lee states in the letter.
The amount offered is 75 per cent of fair market value, up to a maximum $750 per animal. CRD staff confirmed that amount had not changed since the compensation program was introduced in the 1980s, but they felt it had always been sufficient except once, when a horse was killed.
In response to Holman’s questions around the potential need to increase the maximum compensation level in a bad year, staff said the maximum amount could be changed by amending the bylaw if approved by the CRD Board. It would also be possible to run a deficit and recover that from the following year’s requisition. Any unspent funds would go into an operating surplus for the following year.
From the perspective of farmers, there would be no need for compensation if there were no dog attacks, and for that to happen CRD animal control needs to be more effective. Lee said bylaw enforcement officers should be given more responsibility for follow-up and to deal with dogs that are known to be causing problems.
The Farmers’ Institute letter concludes, “every effort must be made to prevent such attacks from occurring in the first place. Our members want concrete actions on your part to enforce existing policy and regulations. We would be more than happy to consult on policy changes that may be needed to resolve this problem.”