RM addresses health of horses, residents

Russel Klassen, seen here with one of several horses he keeps on his property, was recently given 30 days to remove them or be faced with a $250 fine for violating an RM of Meadow Lake bylaw he said has never been enforced in the more than 15 years since it was introduced.

Russel Klassen, seen here with one of several horses he keeps on his property, was recently given 30 days to remove them or be faced with a $250 fine for violating an RM of Meadow Lake bylaw he said has never been enforced in the more than 15 years since it was introduced.

by Phil Ambroziak

At least one RM of Meadow Lake resident is asking the municipality to hold its horses when it comes to enforcing a long ignored animal bylaw.

Rapid View resident Russel Klassen said he would gladly comply with the legislation that prohibits the keeping of horses, cattle, pigs, goats, llamas, alpacas, poultry or sheep within the boundaries of the hamlet, but only if the rule is one that’s agreed upon democratically.

“There needs to be bylaws, but the RM should consider having a public vote on this issue before enforcing it after so long,” Klassen remarked.

According to RM councillor Perry Brookes – who also serves as chair of the North of Divide Community Association (NODCA), the group that recently hired a compliance officer to serve the RM as well as other member municipalities – the animal bylaw is one that’s been in place for many years.

“It was brought in around 1998 when concerns were raised about the water table in Rapid View,” Brookes said. “The water table is close to the surface, so people were worried about manure and whatnot flowing from one yard to the next and contaminating everyone’s drinking water. But, the biggest concern had to do with keeping animals on such small pieces of property. It does seem kind of ludicrous to have anywhere from two to 10 horses on these small plots of land.”

Prior to the hiring of compliance officer Bill Ireland, Brookes said it was the RM administrator’s responsibility to enforce bylaws – something that was never easy considering the numerous other responsibilities that come with the job.

Meanwhile, Ireland confirmed he made a surprise visit to Klassen’s home April 1, during which time he informed Klassen he was in violation of the bylaw. A follow up letter issued the next day stated a fine of $250 would be levied against Klassen if the animals are not removed from his property within 30 days.

Klassen also said he was aware of the bylaw when it was introduced.

“I had horses here for a couple more years after that before I moved them out of town,” he said. “But, people have always had horses here. I brought my seven horses back about a month ago and the next thing I know the compliance officer shows up.”

Klassen went on to reiterate he has no problem with the bylaw, but wishes there was a chance for more public input prior to its sudden enforcement.
“If they held a vote and 50 per cent or more of the people said they don’t want animals in the hamlet, I’d move my horses out of here that very day,” he said. “But, for now, they’re still here.”

Brookes, however, said there was ample opportunity for the public to provide input into earlier efforts to establish NODCA, a group designed to provide cost-effective services such as bylaw enforcement to the entire region.

Since Ireland’s visit, Klassen has made efforts to rally his neighbours and other RM residents to speak out against the bylaw, which also applies to the Aspen Acres subdivision located south of Meadow Lake.

“I went around the community and asked the people if they would be willing to sign their names to a letter I’ve written asking the RM to rescind the bylaw and to immediately stop all enforcement of said bylaw,” he said. “Isn’t owning animals kind of the idea of living in the country? If not, you might as well live in town. The way this was done is just wrong.”

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