Jackie Kilburn is the new Animal Control Officer for Nakusp and Area.

Jackie Kilburn is the new Animal Control Officer for Nakusp and Area.

Good training not good breeding makes good dogs

The paper has been inked, and it’s now official: Jackie Kilburn is the new Animal Control Officer for Nakusp and area.

The paper has been inked, and it’s now official: Jackie Kilburn is the new Animal Control Officer for Nakusp and area.

“I took the contract because seeing dogs running down the highway makes my heart leap,” said Kilburn.

“They all come downtown to me anyway,” she told the Arrow Lakes News. Kilburn runs Dog Sense and has often found herself looking after dogs that have strayed from home.

It’s not a new beat for Kilburn who was an animal control person in Kelowna 30 years ago, but a lot has changed in the intervening decades. And a lot more needs to change, in her view.

“Thirty years ago stray or problem dogs were treated as a nuisance, they were shot and poisoned,” she said. “They weren’t as humanized as today.”

Although the new Animal Control Officer recognizes that everyone’s dog can get loose once in a while, she sees no sense in simply returning an animal to an owner who will just let them go again.

The key to preventing it from happening again is education, said Kilburn, who is a behaviouralist and is willing to put in the time with dogs and their owners to assess their situation and give some advice.

Kilburn said under the RDCK bylaws, there is an option to euthanize an animal if it isn’t collected by its owner in a timely manner (one week), an option she she doesn’t plan on using. If an owner doesn’t come for their dog, Kilburn is more interested in rehabilitating the dog and finding it a new home.

“It’s not that owners are bad,” she said, “they’re probably just not knowledgeable enough.”

Just like people, dogs have personalities: some are more social than others, while others need more space. And they communicate their needs one way or another.

“Dogs tell us ‘don’t come near’ but we don’t listen,” said Kilburn, who thinks the Yellow Ribbon campaign for dogs is a great idea.

The campaign encourages owners to put a yellow ribbon on the leash of a dog who needs space, signalling to others that this dog should not be approached. Many people are too quick to walk up to a dog they don’t know wanting to pet it and visit, but that isn’t necessarily the best approach for all dogs.

Bites and attacks are always preventable, said Kilburn, who also believes that is should be mandatory for people to have a session with a behavourist or trainer in order to teach dogs good social manners.

“If not, the animal is going to pay,” she said. And the owners too. If your dog is found wandering two or more times in a calendar year, according to the RDCK bylaw, the Animal Control Officer can order the dog from the control area. If that doesn’t happen, the officer can take the dog into custody. Not only that, but owners are on the hook for the room and board costs incurred while they’re in the doggy big house.

“We’ve got to start holding people responsible and make them better owners,” said Kilburn.

But the relationship between a dog and owner is complex, and a bad match can resulting in a dog expressing itself in unacceptable ways.

The best way to avoid this is to do research before getting a dog, trying to find a companion with a complimentary energy level.

And if you see a dog that has slipped away and is running down the highway looking lost, you can call animal control at the same number (250-265-1580) and Jackie Kilburn will ready to help.