A mini pinscher. Victoria Animal Control Services responded to a call after a seventh naloxone resuscitation was provided for one dog at Portland Housing Society. (Black Press Media file photo)

UPDATE: Victoria will not seize pets that have ingested narcotics

Council considered the bylaw amendment on Sept. 2 after naloxone used seven times on one dog

  • Sep. 2, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Victoria city councillors considered a bylaw amendment last Thursday (Sept. 2) that would allow pets suspected of ingesting narcotics to be seized for veterinarian treatment without a warrant, following the seventh naloxone resuscitation of one dog at Portland Housing Society.

The majority of the council did not move the motion forward, said proponent Councillor Stephen Andrews. “We will meet with the (British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) this week to try and moved things forward,” he said.

On July 28, Victoria Animal Control Services responded to a call that a small dog was running loose around the Johnson Street supportive housing building. Upon arriving, senior animal control officer Ian Fraser found the dog in question – a miniature pinscher – leashed. Fraser confirmed with the housing society staff that the dog had in fact been resuscitated from opioid overdose with three doses of naloxone that evening after accidentally ingesting its owner’s drug supply. Staff said it was the seventh time that the anti-opioid drug had been used on the animal.

Because the pet was unlicensed, Fraser was able to seize the dog for a veterinarian’s examination, which found traces of methamphetamine, amphetamine, and cocaine in its urine. Its blood levels showed higher than usual creatinine levels, which Fraser said could indicate muscle damage as a result of the naloxone intervention.

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“Given a dog that size, having to give it three doses of naloxone to bring it back … I mean, that’s a lot of drugs that that dog must have had,” said Coun. Stephen Andrews. “If anybody in this city believes that it’s appropriate to give a dog naloxone on seven different occasions, or that we’re questioning whether this dog should be seized or not, that is verging on insanity,” he said.

He and Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe drafted a bylaw that states no pet is allowed to ingest opioids, narcotics or recreational drugs other than those prescribed by a veterinarian, and that any delivery of naloxone or anti-opioid treatment towards a pet be reported to Victoria Animal Control and the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The bylaw would allow Victoria Animal Control to seize licensed pets without a warrant in the event of either circumstance.

“If an animal is seized incorrectly and somebody complains to the court, then the court makes that decision,” Andrews said. “But the idea is, if the dog is in immediate distress (due to drug use) then we have to pull it out.”

The incident and resulting bylaw proposal come after 24 months of increased cases of animal neglect, according to the councillor’s bylaw report. Fraser said dogs are spending longer periods of time in the pound as a result of COVID straining unprepared pet owners. “When the dog is in the pound for two or three days, or three weeks, we start to realize there are some underlying issues here of neglect,” he said, adding that has driven up neglect case numbers.

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