City of Powell River council ponders expansion of electric fencing zones

Greater electric fence use could soon be allowable within city limits

Electric fences are closer to becoming a reality in residential zones within City of Powell River boundaries.

At the city council meeting on Thursday, July 4, use of electric fences to prevent human-wildlife interactions was up for discussion.

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Councillor Rob Southcott said that in the interest of promoting agriculture in the community, a couple of years ago, a number of bylaws were changed to allow for urban agriculture.

“One thing we didn’t do was to consider what happens when we have more agriculture, such as chickens, for example, in our larger municipality,” said Southcott. “Agriculture can provide an attraction to wild animals like bears, in particular. Electric fences are a natural, simple and really a safe way to deter bears and possibly other animals as well.”

Southcott said once people become familiar with the electric fences they are “quite safe.”

He said electric pulses are sent through the electric fence wire, and when touched, the animal or person touching it will get a shock that is very brief.

“It’s actually a very small amount of electrical energy, even though it really has a bite,” Southcott said. “It’s something like a bee or a wasp sting and it will get your attention, whether you are a human or an animal, and then you withdraw.”

He said the staff report indicates that electric fences are not intended to serve as a substitute for a perimeter fence. The report says while a typical fence could be constructed along a property line, an electrified fence could not. Instead, the electrified portion may only be placed outside of setback areas. It has to be within your property line, said Southcott.

“I’m very glad to see this come forward, particularly because it helps promote agriculture within our city,” he added.

The current zoning bylaw allows the use of electric fences in the A1, A2 and RA1 zones, matching the zones that allow agricultural use and the keeping of livestock. Electric fences are not permitted in the R1, R2, R3 and NT zones where urban farming is permitted.

Councillor George Doubt said he was in favour of the electric fence initiative and thinks it is a good idea. He said a number of members of the public have come over in the last year requesting protection for their chickens and gardens.

“It will contribute to backyard agriculture and that’s a good thing,” said Doubt.

Councillors gave initial readings on four bylaws that pertain to the use of electric fences. Regarding the zoning bylaw, a public hearing must be held, giving residents the opportunity to comment on the proposed revisions.

Adoption of the bylaws will come up at a later meeting of City of Powell River Council.

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