Compliance and Preparedness

After Fernie: Ensuring Compliance and Preparedness

On August 29th WorkSafeBC released a 74-page report on their investigation into the tragic deaths of three men following an ammonia leak at an arena facility in Fernie last year.

According to the report: “Poor communication and inconsistent attention to internal auditing, inspections, incident investigation and emergency practice drills allowed for the development of hazardous workplace conditions.”

The report cites multiple Occupational Health and Safety Regulation failures by Fernie, as well as Workers Compensation Act failures by both the city and the service contractor. Fernie received the majority of the violations, including:

  • emergency response procedures that were inadequate or not followed—including failures to train workers and conduct drills
  • failure to perform hazard assessments and inspections of equipment to prevent unsafe working conditions
  • failure to develop and implement an exposure control plan for ammonia

You can read the full report here.

The Fernie deaths are all the more tragic because they were avoidable. Armed with the knowledge of what caused this incident, it is critical to ensure that a similar event does not happen in the future.

Unfortunately, in our professional capacity we have found that numerous ammonia facilities have inadequate emergency response procedures, infrequently reviewed or conducted emergency drills and a significant lack of exposure training and preparedness. In the majority of these cases, management falsely believed they were compliant because they had passed a technical standards inspection and had a document or two on file for emergency response. The Ontario Recreation Facilities Association (ORFA) conducted a webinar on March 29th, 2018 and reported findings consistent with our own: ammonia facility management that failed to keep emergency plans current and practiced, and a lack of competency for unattended refrigeration equipment operators—including being underprepared to deal with a significant ammonia leak.

This false sense of compliance and preparedness most often occurs because management either doesn’t know the right questions to ask, or isn’t sure what a good safety and emergency program should consist of. The situation is made worse when facility managers do not qualify or review service contractors’ programs or methods and/or rely on EMS or fire services to cover emergency protocols, which is not necessarily in accordance with legislative requirements.

Between 2015 and 2018 in North America there have been at least 23 incidents of ammonia releases, including 8 fatalities.

Anyone responsible for the safety of others around ammonia is strongly encouraged to seek professional assistance in the development of their programs and procedures. This begins with responding to the following questions:

  1. How have you fully ensured the safety of all workers and the public in your ammonia facilities?
  2. How are you ensuring that your service contractors have an ammonia program that is complete and compliant for emergency, maintenance and exposure control, and able to integrate with your facilities requirements?
  3. How thorough is your exposure control plan?
  4. How can you verify that your staff, contractors and operators are all competent in following the programs and procedures you have in place and are able to carry out an emergency response to a minor or major leak?

After the WorkSafeBC report on the Fernie incident, ignorance is not a valid excuse for noncompliance when it comes to ammonia safety. A lack of certainty or inability to thoroughly answer any of the above questions can indicate a significant risk to the occupants and users of your facility.

At Barantas, we have been building comprehensive and robust health and safety and emergency response programs since 2002. We go to great lengths to help ammonia facility managers, municipality directors and contractors appreciate what reasonable preparedness can look like.

A professionally performed audit is the only true confirmation of compliance and preparedness.  Let us work with you to ensure you are taking every reasonable precaution to protect those who rely on you to keep them safe while inside your facility. By booking a professional audit today you are taking the first step in preventing an incident tomorrow.

Barantas Inc. – Is a full service provider for all your health & safety needs.  See our profile

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NetFore Systems upgrades its Municipal Staff Mobile Application to allowing staff to capture new issues & service requests on the fly while internet or data services are unavailable!

AccessE11, Ottawa, Canada

Home grow Canadian software developer Netfore Systems Inc., updated their popular AccessE11 Mobile Application to help increase productivity and reduce administrative paperwork for the municipal worker while in the field.

A long-standing problem that rural municipal workers face is the need for paper-based processes to record new issues or service requests while in the field because they too often have no data access. This is a productivity barrier that NetFore has addressed with the latest release of its popular AccessE11 cloud-based issue management software product and accompanying a mobile application.

“With previous releases of the AccessE11 solution, we significantly reduced the need for both municipal office and field staff to rely on paper to close the loop on managing citizen complaints and service requests”, says NetFore’s CEO Ken Workun, “however this did not completely solve the problem where a new issue is found by a work crew or a citizen raises an issue with a field worker directly”.

Understanding this issue, NetFore has introduced capabilities to add a complaint or service request from the AccessE11 mobile application even if the user has no data or internet access. “The real difference is the off-line functionality” comments Rene Villeneuve – NetFore’s Software Architect overseeing the project. “We made municipal issue management even easier by taking things one step further.  When an AccessE11 user’s mobile device acquires a data signal or attaches to a wi-fi network, any new cases are automatically uploaded to the AccessE11 database”.

For By-Law officer Nancy-Ann Gauthier, the new off-line case creation feature “means that I can do my full job while on the road even when I do not have a data signal… I liked the mobile App before, but I love it now!” In the town of South Stormont Fire Prevention Officer, Nick MacGillivray finds the ability to create cases while on the road saves time and helps when a call comes to in from a citizen who has an issue with a burn permit, “I now can create the case where ever I am,  in seconds, without having to go to the office or find a data signal”.  Blake Henderson – Public Works Superintendent at North Stormont knows that the AccessE11 mobile application has saved loads of time and “has increased staff productivity.”

 

This new feature is now available as a core feature for all AccessE11 Mobile Application users.

Visit AccessE11.com  to find out more.

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Cyber threats and how to protect your municipality

Brad Pinch – Director of Municipal Needs at AccessE11

 

Often, when we hear about securing online systems against cyber-attacks the first thought is to invest time and energy into cybersecurity software. While this is important, and should not be downplayed, did you know that software alone will only defend against a small percentage of cyber-attacks?

Hacker Image

 

The easiest way for someone to breach your security infrastructure is to employ the unsuspecting assistance of your users.

According to PhishMe’s 2017 Enterprise Phishing Resiliency and Defense Report, 91% of all cyber-attacks are a result of people who fall prey to Phishing Attacks. Of the remaining 9% of cyber-attacks, more than 75% are the result of other forms of “human failure” to secure information.

Phishing is an attack that begins with a very targeted email sent to your staff (and perhaps yourself), that often impersonates a service provider, colleague, family member or friend and entices you to click on a link or open a document. This action may include a request for private information that provides the perpetrator with the means to launch a secondary cyber-attack or it may launch an attack directly through the download of malicious software. Attacks can be in the form of spyware, malware, and increasingly ransomware and data theft.

Wombats Security’s – State of the Phish 2018 report– suggests that phishing attack frequency from 2016 to 2017 increased by 48%; phishing is on the rise because it continues to work. Hackers have quickly learned that it requires less energy to trick users into giving them access than it does to circumnavigate the sophisticated security systems deployed today.

6 simple steps that a municipality can do to protect themselves

Here are a few steps a municipality can take to minimize its chances of security breaches and cyber attacks.

  1. Stay Informed and educate your team

Much of the battle against phishing and spear phishing (personalized phishing) attacks is getting users to understanding what this type of attack looks like, so they are less likely to be duped. Phishing relies on basic human conditions:

  1. information overload and shortcuts our brains take to process the information,
  2. a desire to help those we care for and trust of information that (seems to) come from them,
  3. curiosity for new information.

These traits are well known to attackers and are exploited in order to get victims to click on a link or open a document. Emails look like they’re from legitimate sources: Microsoft 365, Google, Dropbox, PayPal, Adobe account, LinkedIn, credit card company and many more.

There is a great infographic called don’t get hooked: how to recognize and avoid phishing attacks from the Digital Guardian. Print it out and post it for all to see.

  1. Keep your software up to date

Malware is being created all the time and is designed to take advantage of newly discovered vulnerabilities in our general use software. Vendors are quick to update their software, but you must update your version in order to be secure. You should regularly, or ideally automatically, update your software:

  1. Browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc)
  2. Operating Systems (Windows, MacOS)
  3. Office Software (Outlook, Word, Adobe)
  1. Call before you click

Any email from a bank or colleague can usually be responded to directly, rather than via a reply or by clicking on a link. If there is ever any doubt, call your bank on the phone (using published numbers, not one in the email), or log directly into their website directly – not from the link in the email. By not taking the shortcut, fraudulent links can be avoided.

  1. Install anti-virus software and activate the Anti-Phishing toolbar if available

Antivirus software is designed to guard against known vulnerabilities. Even though today’s operating systems are more secure than ever, security tools look for malicious content in real time and provide an extra layer of scrutiny. And make sure you keep it updated as well.

Internet browsers can also be extended with anti-phishing toolbars. Such toolbars run quick checks on any site you visit and compare it a to lists of known phishing sites. If you stumble upon a malicious site, the toolbar will alert you about it. This is just one more layer of protection against phishing scams, and there are many that are completely free.

  1. Implement Secure Password Policies

As hard as it is to believe, the 10 most common passwords in 2017 were:

  • 123456, 123456789, qwerty, 12345678, 111111, 1234567890, 1234567, password123, 123123, 987654321

It won’t take a hacker long to break these codes.

Equally important though – do not use the same password for everything: If you do, and someone gets access to one system, they can often get access to them all. If you struggle to remember passwords (who doesn’t) there are many excellent tools that can assist:

These programs store an encrypted version of your passwords on your computer and conveniently provide them when you need them. This means remembering only one password.

  1. Beware the Unknown Storage Devices

It is possible the free USB drive that is received from a tradeshow, or the one you found in the parking lot has a virus on it. Sites that sell marketing USB drives unwittingly provide ones that have viruses installed from the source in China, Russia, India, Korea and other countries (yes including the UK, US, and Canada). These were likely never checked by the company who put their information on the drive to give to you.

If a data storage device is not bought by your company or municipality from a reputable source then it should not be allowed on one of your computers, ever!

These are only a few ideas to help better protect your organization from cyber-attacks. The common element in each remains the same; people and their behavior represent the greatest risk but also provide the best defense against cyber-attacks. Any user can open the door to intruders, so ensuring everyone understands the risk and remains vigilant is critical. Investment in the human factor will pay off quickly and be more cost-effective than any other action.

For More Interesting Articles on Issues that Municipalities are facing please visit us at https://www.accesse11.com

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Dealing with Escalated Situations in Your Workplace

Resolving workplace conflict is an expected part of the job managers and Human Resource Practitioners. Whether you work in education, healthcare, human services, business, or any field, you might deal with angry, hostile, or noncompliant behaviour every day. Your response to the defensive reaction is often the key to avoiding a physical confrontation with someone who has lost control of their behaviour.

These ten De-Escalation Tips will help you respond to challenging behaviour in the safest, most efficient way possible.

  1. Be empathetic and non-judgmental
  2. Respect personal space
  3. Use non-threatening nonverbal communication
  4. Avoid overacting
  5. Focus on feelings
  6. Ignore challenging questions
  7. Set limits
  8. Choose wisely what you insist upon
  9. Allow silence for reflection
  10. Allow time for decisions

 

 To help you towards more efficient conflict de-escalation and resolution, the following basic steps can be followed:

  • Obtain the name of the person with whom you are speaking: People respond favourably to their own name. It also makes the conversation more personal. Ask for the person’s name early in the piece and use it throughout the discussion.
  • Use Active Listening: Clarifying, paraphrasing and using open-ended questions ensure that the individual you are speaking with knows you are aware of their situation and frustrations. Resaying a person’s own words back to them demonstrates that you have understood entirely what they were trying to say.       
  • Show support and suspend judgement: Empathy needs to be shown during conflict situations. Respecting the other person’s point of view even if you do not agree entirely will be the first step to resolving the conflict. 
  • Get them to agree and say yes: Having the person agree with you on general factual points leads the conversation towards a more favourable outcome. If you can show that you have understood their point of view by making clarifying statements you generate a state where the other person must reply with an affirmative response. The sooner you can get the person to say yes then sooner the conflict will de-escalate. It always works.
  • Avoid clichés: The worst of these being “Calm Down”. Did you ever notice how people who tell you to calm down are the ones who got you mad in the first place? Saying those words during a verbal conflict usually gets the classic retort “I AM CALM” very loudly usually with an animated hand gestures as well.       
  • Show empathy: You need to show compassion and understanding and give the conflict your full attention. Do not make impulsive decisions. Take the time to work through the problem.
  • Consistency in Courtesy: The person you are dealing with first thing in the morning deserves the same level of respect, civility and patience as the individual you are dealing with at 2 in the afternoon. They warrant the same high level of service and professionalism as the first person you spoke to. You need to maintain that position of positive brand ambassador and an excellent professional service.

There are many physical aspects of being mindful of in conflict situations. It is important always to be aware of features of conflict such as your body language, your emotions, your judgement, and your initial thoughts. Keeping these in mind is essential when trying to de-escalate a problematic situation.

Monika B. Jensen is the principal of the Aviary Group, consulting company that address workplace discord.  For more information, visit www.aviarygroup.ca

 

 

 

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Private Security Trends and the Need for more Trained Private Security Resources

The Canadian Occupation Projection System (COPS) predicts that by 2018, there will be a significant shortage of Private Investigation and Private Security professionals for the projected number of job openings in Canada.

 

This is due to a large number of impending retirements and the increasing demand for trained professionals in the Private Investigation and Security field. The current security climate in Canada, the privatization of public security functions and the gaps in accessible knowledge and streamlined training in the private security field, including the gaps between private and public security, are all indications that there is an imminent and urgent need to provide professional and comprehensive private investigative and security services to Canadians. This not only increases individual safety and security within municipalities but also ensure the Canada as a whole maintains its credibility and reputation as one of the safest Countries in the World.

 

In 2002, the Law Reform Commission of Canada opened a dialogue on the trend in the growth of private security in Canada. A continued rise in law enforcement expenditures, combined with economic downturns, have contributed to pressure being placed on police services around the world to become more effective and efficient. This has resulted in a growing trend of privatizing some functions traditionally performed by public policing to the private security industry as well as the growing cooperative efforts between public and private security. Private security plays an increasingly important role in community safety and addressing issues of crime and social disorder.

 

It is often assumed that privatizing and outsourcing traditional law enforcement tasks will result in reductions in the numbers of sworn police officers. This is very far from the truth, on the contrary, public and private security collaboration may in fact result in innovative initiatives that previously did not exist, and with the growing need for security actions in communities, may in fact provide law enforcement with extra resources and partners to undertake more actions without being overworked and understaffed while utilizing various community expertise.

 

There is a growing need for more security trained private resources and more collaboration between all security facets in Canada.  In Ontario, Private Investigators as well as Security Guards are licenced and regulated by the Ministry Of Correctional Services and Community Safety.

 

Anyone that acts in these rolls must have a licence. To obtain a licence, you must meet some requirements, one of them is completion of a Ministry-approved course provided by a registered provider such as Focus Investigations. A minimum 50 hour course for Private Investigator and a 40 hour course for Security Guards is mandatory.

 

These courses can be completed online making it easy for students to complete at the curriculum at their own pace. The process is as follows:

 

1. Complete Ministry training course and receive a “Completion Number”

 

2. Book a written exam at a SERCO Canada location that provides these tests. 

 

3. Upon successful completion of the exam, a candidate may now apply to the Ministry for their license. 

* For Security Guards, Emergency level first aid training is also required.

 

More information can be found on the licensing and industry here:

https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/PSIS/FAQs/FAQs-Licences/PSIS_faqs_licences.html

 

Additional training that is useful for security professionals as well as anyone working in a security related field such as:

 

Notetaking:

 

Knowing how to take notes is important for the following reasons:

 

  • Notes are referenced for several reasons and potentially by several people.
  • Supervisors might want a rundown of the events you encountered the night before, clients may want to know about incidents that affected their businesses, and law enforcement may need these notes to help with an investigation which could conclude in a court case in which the notes will be used to prove or disprove an allegation.
  • It is vital that security personnel know how to take proper notes so that the facts are covered and there is no confusion that renders the reports useless.

 

Crisis Intervention

 

A crisis occurs when someone loses control over their behaviour. These moments are often preceded by warning signs that tells you someone’s behaviour is starting to escalate.  Security officials and any employee having to interact with the public may be faced with a situation where they are called upon to defuse a situation. By following the tips in a crisis intervention course, they often prevent a situation from becoming critical and dangerous and they are prepared and confident in any crisis they may face.

 

 For more information or to enrol in one of these courses, visit us at http://www.focusinvestigation.net

 

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What does Bill 132 (Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act) mean to you and your workplace?

One in four women and one in ten men say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Of the reported cases of workplace sexual harassment, 55% were committed by co-workers; 39% of which involved a supervisor or manager. 8% of those who are sexually harassed at work report the harassment.

Recently there have been some changes made to Bill 168 – Violence in the Workplace, which gives employers’ statutory obligations. Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which received royal assent on March 8, 2016, requires all employers to have policies and programs including an investigation procedure. The essential changes brought by Bill 132 include: an employer is required to create a workplace harassment program; the program must include reporting and investigating tools for incidents of workplace harassment and violence; the employers must ensure that all complaints are investigated, and investigations are completed in a timely fashion and a new power to the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to order an independent workplace harassment investigation at the employer’s expense.

September 8, 2016, now looms for companies as the date for compliance with Bill 132. The amendments stand to change dramatically how workplace harassment is addressed in Ontario. The new OHSA obligations and expectations have been set and are accompanied by expanded government oversight. Harassment in the workplace is already a challenging issue that could engage multiple forums, with complaints possibly being advanced through a grievance, civil claim, complaint under the Human Rights Code, and, depending on the severity of the conduct, the criminal justice system.

Also, and particularly, the Bill amends the OHSA to require an employer to conduct an investigation of a workplace harassment complaint that is “appropriate in the circumstances.” The phrase “appropriate in the circumstances” is not defined. Further, the Ministry of Labour has not published any guidance material to communicate what factors will be considered by inspectors when determining whether an investigation meets this standard. Assuming that the inspectors could be evaluating investigations against expected best practices which would include such things as an impartial investigator, a collection of all relevant information, and procedural fairness to the alleged harasser could create challenges for employers as the appropriateness of an investigation may be evaluated in hindsight.

Consequences of flawed investigations would impair or prejudice the employer’s ability to establish just cause for termination or discipline. There would also be an issue of due diligence under the OHSA and Human Rights Code. Consequences would include aggravated, punitive or Code damages; penalties from the Ministry of Labour under the OHSA and reinstatement in unionized workplaces. Some of the critical mistakes some employers are making include: failing to act at all; taking the complaint seriously; failure to train investigators; inability to plan, improper or inadequate files; and retention of evidence.

Many situations happening in the workplace may prompt the necessity for an investigation, such as allegations of discrimination or harassment, workplace bullying, inappropriate use of the internet or social media, policy breaches, or statutory violations. Often, employers attempt to resolve minor issues informally through discussions with the employees involved. When the allegations are more serious, employers may depend on managers to conduct internal investigations. However, in many situations, having an organization deal directly with the problem is not necessarily the best approach – informal discussions may rapidly collapse, and basic investigative steps may be overlooked by inexperienced managers, making matters worse. A vital skill for any employer is identifying when a formal investigation by an external investigator is appropriate.

Note: meeting the requirements of Bill 132 could lead to mistakes that can be costly to your organization.

Be prepared. Be proactive.

Contact Monika Jensen, Principal Aviary Group at mjensen@aviarygroup.ca  or (905) 683-9953 if you need a complaint investigated or mediated.

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Embracing Civility for a More Satisfying WorkPlace

Complaints of harassment, discrimination, bullying and now violence and disrespectful workplaces have become a standard concern for managers and Human Resources specialist. As we cope with the many arising situations, I have found the word incivility is becoming frequently used. So what does incivility mean? To define it, let’s look at how the Institute of Civility describes it. Civility is about more than merely being polite. Civility requires a profound self-awareness being characterized by true respect for others. Civility involves the tremendous hard work of remaining present even with those with whom we have inherent and perhaps fierce differences. It is about continuously being open to hearing, to learning, to teaching and to changing. It pursues mutual ground as a start point for discussions when differences may occur, while at the same time be aware that differences are heartening. It is persistence, grace, and strength of character.

Recently research has expanded our practical understanding of incivility by identifying behaviours which employees have deemed disrespectful. The most frequently occurring forms include: neglecting to turn off cell phones; talking behind someone’s back; doubting someone’s judgement, using demeaning or disparaging language, gestures or behaviours; communicating with the intent to belittle or degrade, eye rolling, giving the silent treatment and using sarcasm; gossip and slander; paying no attention or ignoring someone; taking credit for someone else’s work or ideas; intimidation by intentionally using fear to manipulate others. It may also include yelling, invading personal space, throwing things, slamming things and losing one’s temper; and sabotaging by setting someone up to fail or intentionally creating a situation to make another person look foolish or incompetent. Also may include hate-ism by deliberately pointing at a victim based on age, gender, race or sexual orientation are instances of profiling because of an “ism.”

Many examples include blaming others rather than accepting responsibility; checking email or texting during a meeting; using email to send a difficult message to avoid facing the person, which may be misunderstood and misinterpreted; not saying “please” or “thank you”; not listening and talking over or down to someone.
The cost of incivility is high. It is not only about money! There is research to support impacts on performance through lost time and absenteeism, lack of creativity, less helpfulness and less likely to assist another employee. The impact of teams is on the level of energy, emotional engagement, and performance. The conduct reaches into our physical health; impacts our customers and commitment to the organization and willingness of employees to stay with their companies. All affecting the bottom line of productivity.
So how do we address these issues? I would like to explore some recommendations for your consideration. It starts with us as individuals. Managing ourselves. How? If you throw a ball at the wall…it comes back. It works with people too. If you are, mean…it comes back! People will be mean to you.

How can you be kind and patient all the time when life is so stressful—and just plain hard? You do it by embracing civility! Civility requires self-awareness.

With self-awareness you can:
 Control your attitude
 Manage your moods
 Choose behaviours that do not negatively impact your life or disrupt those around you

Can you…
 Feel and express annoyance, irritation or frustration without hurting others— and then let it go?
 Accept and even appreciate that other people have needs and opinions which are different from your own?
 Encourage and enjoy the successes of others?
 Recognize when someone else feels irritated, upset or frustrated and keep yourself from reacting impulsively in response?

As leaders, we need to model. The Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” Employees look to leaders for guidance and someone to aspire too. What are they seeing? Watch your language and put away your smartphones when engaging with your staff. Be mindful of the perils of emails and other electronic communication. Pick up the phone or set up a face to face meeting instead. Take immediate and corrective action when warranted. Rude and disrespectful behaviours emerge quickly and sometimes without warning. As the leader, you need to respond at the moment. By delaying a reaction or action, it sends out mixed messages to the offender as well as the entire team. Take all complaints seriously, realizing that coming forward by the individual is difficult, and they need to know they are supported.

We attend seminars and workshop on harassment prevention, Creating Respectful Workplace and Violence in the Workplace. I have put together a workshop on “How Embracing Civility can Create More Satisfying Work Environments”. The agenda is:
• Why Civility Matters
• It Starts with You!
• Do What You Say and Say What You Mean
• Good Fences Make Great Neighbours
• Working in the Salad Bowl
• Eliminate Gossip and Bullying
• You Can’t Always Get What You Want
• Taking It to the Extreme
• Paving the Path to Civility

Contact Monika Jensen, Principal, Aviary Group, at mjensen@aviarygroup.ca  if you are interested.

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Celebrating Member Successes – Congratulations DocuPet!

Brockville backs online dog tags

(Photo – RONALD ZAJAC/The Recorder and Times)

DocuPet picture wdp

By Ronald Zajac, Recorder and Times

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 5:45:22 EDT PM

An online pet registration firm will try to convince wary or indifferent Brockville dog owners to register their pets.

City council on Tuesday backed its finance, administration and operations committee’s recommendation of a five-year deal with with DocuPet Inc. for Internet-based pet registration and identification services.

Councillors approved the deal after removing a clause in the motion, by councillor Jeff Earle, requiring DocuPet to put pet owners’ phone numbers on the tags.

Kingston-based DocuPet expects to take over the services in the fall. 

Brockville, like other municipalities, has a low compliance rate for dog licensing.

A staff report notes the city has sold some 700 to 1,000 dogs tags annually in recent years.

Planning director Maureen Pascoe Merkley told council she estimates Brockville’s pet license compliance rate at 12 to 15 per cent.

That’s in spite of a city bylaw providing for the licensing and registering of dogs and prohibiting their running at large; it requires dog owners to register their pets and get an annual license, or dog tag.

Dog tag costs vary depending on the animal’s circumstances, but the average is about $28.50 a year for the owner. 

DocuPet is proposing to boost compliance with its services. Pascoe Merkley said she hopes compliance will increase by 10 per cent a year. 

Advantages of the online outsourcing include increased license revenue, decreased operating costs and benefits to dog owners such as a “lost pet alert” service and a rewards program DocuPet would work on with local businesses.

The proposed deal with the city is to determine a “baseline” of current licensing compliance. The city gets to keep all revenue within that baseline, in effect keeping what it already makes, while DocuPet takes half of all new revenue above and beyond that baseline.

The tags DocuPet proposed to use include an alphanumeric code for use online, as well as the city’s phone number for people who do not use computers. 

Earle reiterated his point that using the numbers of the pet owners is a simpler way of dealing with errant animals and eliminates the middle man.

Offering that option to users would make the difference between pet licensing being a service to residents, as opposed to simply a tax, said Earle. “It’s up to us to get them the best value for that service,” added Earle. He held up examples of other dog tags that included the phone numbers of the owners. “This is a much more user-friendly system,” said Earle.

City and DocuPet officials have said such an approach is impractical because the tags become invalid if the owner moves.

City clerk Sandra MacDonald also confirmed municipal protection of privacy law would require the city to get special consent from pet owners to put their numbers on tags.

DocuPet’s plan is for a custom-made tag, whereas designing specific tags for each owner would be logistically difficult, said Pascoe Merkley.

Councillor Phil Deery said he sees the licensing process as a tax. “The purpose of the tax is to off-set the costs of animal control,” he added.

Earle, clearly in the minority with his argument, then added another reason for his objections. “I don’t see a reason the dogs are being taxed and not the cats,” he said.

The city has in the past explored the option of registering cats but found it too onerous.

As he did at last week’s committee meeting, councillor Jason Baker stepped out on a conflict of interest because his employer makes animal tags.

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