City Council Candidate - KATIE O'KELL

City Council Candidate - KATIE O'KELL

Dear Candidate,

  I'm reaching out as Pet-Friendly Penticton, on behalf of the pets and pet-parents in our community, to ask a few questions and to highlight a couple of the biggest concerns that were brought up with me during the many chats I've had over the past 6 months.

  I look forward to receiving your responses – thanks for your time!

- Kona Sankey
  Pet-Friendly Penticton Founder & Community Ambassador


If the Pet-Friendly Penticton project has made one thing clear, it's that this community is passionate about their pets – Pets are family!

Do you share that passion? Tell us about the pets in your life!
If you don't have pets at home, let us know how animals have been important in your life.

  I have always had at least one dog in my life. I have been blessed to have 4 phenomenal dogs pass in and out of my life, and I carry memories of them every day. I grew up with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Fudge. At the time I was a competitive swimmer in high school and she loved to help me train in the lake. In university I got a husky/wolf, who lived a full life. We would rollerblade together, and since I didn’t have a car I taught him how to pull my groceries home in a cart. When I moved to Penticton, I rescued a Husky/Lab named Whiskey. Whiskey loved ‘working’ in the tasting room at my winery and had many customers who would come and say hello. I also rescued a Catahoula Leopard Hound named Candy, who unfortunately couldn’t recover from the scars of her past life. Many people may remember the dog treat fundraiser I held to help her get $10,000 dental surgery. I currently have a German Shepherd/Pyrenees puppy named Oliver. He’s 9 months old and just entering his brat phase. He comes to work with me every day but isn’t ready to be a wine shop dog quite yet. My husband is more of a cat guy, so we also have an elderly cat (age unknown) named Spooky who we got through Critteraid. 


Penticton's pet-amenities are a regular point of contention due to issues around
maintenance, safety, and design/materials. Many Penticton residents regularly travel to surrounding communities across the Okanagan Valley for their dog parks and beaches rather than going to our local places due to these issues.

If elected, what solutions might you propose to address the concerns of residents local pet-amenities?

  I struggle with our dog parks too. I often find broken glass at the dog peach, and the dog park by the SPCA is in serious disrepair. As a fuzzy dog owner, I avoid that park during our mud season. Dog parks are a crucial part of any dog’s development and we need to invest in better parks. At the dog beach, I would love to see the fence extended so it’s harder for dogs (my miscreant puppy included) to escape. There could be challenges with environmental impact surveys to accomplish that. The consistent broken glass is another serious concern. We need a recycling bin within arms reach of the park for people to dispose of their glass waste, and better patrols from our bylaw officers. For the SPCA park, over the years we have tried a few solutions with no success. There is rarely enough water there for dogs, and bowls are often stolen. Growing grass is difficult with all the happy paws running around. I remember one year mulch was put down, but that had limited success. Astroturf has its own benefits and drawbacks. There is also no shade there for humans or dogs, and a picnic table that is frequently broken. We need to invest in a proper surface for the dogs, better shade, better water for our dogs and better seating for the humans.


What are your thoughts on the economic impact of non-use on our local pet-amenities and residents regularly commuting for preferable options?

  If we had a larger investment in our parks, they would be better used. This leads to pets who are better socialized, well adjusted, and behaved in all public areas. A properly socialized dog is less likely to bark, lunge, bite, or be disruptive when out and about on public streets. An investment in better dog parks leads to a better Penticton for everyone. Gas is expensive, and traveling to other dog parks of course takes a toll on your finances and your free time. I often take Ollie to the Naramata Creek park, or Trout Creek. But those that suffer most are the ones who don’t have vehicles. When I was in university, I didn’t have a car and lived very far from a dog park. It was a struggle for me to get there and get my puppy socialized.


Ontario's Residential Tenancy Act, Section 14, states that a Landlord cannot prevent a tenant from owning pets. Meanwhile, pets are being surrendered daily, all over BC, because their owners cannot find pet-friendly housing. Penticton faces additional pressure for housing as we have some of the highest rent rates in Canada, and a severe shortage on long-term and year-round rentals of any variety.
While a change to the Residential Tenancy Act is a provincial government matter, municipal government can still move to include/promote similar clauses on a local scale, and has the ability to push in support of such a change if a Bill were proposed.

What are your thoughts on revising the Residential Tenancy Act in BC, to be like that of Ontario, in regards to pets and rentals?

  I grew up in Ontario. As a young university student I had to find a rental with my dog and benefitted from this Bill. When I moved to Penticton I had significant difficulties finding a place to live with my 2 very well behaved Huskies. I understand why landlords have a hesitancy to rent to pet owners, but that is what a pet deposit is for. Pets have numerous positive impacts on our lives, and our shelters should not be full of surrenders because people cannot find a place to live. I would absolutely support a Bill to support pet owners.


Penticton doesn't have an emergency veterinary clinic!

If something happens and an animal needs to see a vet in the evenings, on weekends or on holidays, residents need to drive an hour out of Penticton in order to reach help.  Many pets do not make it, and many more don't because their human doesn't have access to transportation.

Were you aware of this situation?

  Yes. I have used the Kelowna clinic several times over the years. My most memorable experience was about 8 years ago when my two huskies found a porcupine while I was camping. As darkness was falling, I had to pack up my tent and gear and drive several hours to Kelowna to get them de-quilled. The whole time I was driving, both my dogs were in pain, crying, and trying to pull their needles out. It was a harrowing drive, and I would have loved a clinic that was closer. This year my puppy ate some THC off the ground – I didn’t see it happen, and I was really scared. He was staggering, drooling, and couldn’t stand up. The 2 hour drive (including traffic) was one of the hardest drives of my entire life. When your dog has ingested an unknown poison, every second counts.


When vital and time sensitive services are missing from a community, what do you feel are a City Council's responsibilities in regards to communication and/or action?

  There are things the City can do, and there are things that are out of our municipal control. In order for a clinic to have ER status, there are specific pieces of very expensive equipment that they must have. As a City we cannot compel a business to change their operating practices or spend their budget on certain pieces of supplies or equipment. However we can encourage businesses and raise awareness of issues in our community. I remember a few years ago there was a big push to get an ER vet in town. I spoke to my Vet about the issue when I came in with one of my dogs. They mentioned they didn’t have enough staff to keep a clinic open 24/7, and also didn’t have enough budget to purchase the required equipment. As a City we need to create more housing for all businesses to hire more staff. We can also support fundraisers and events to raise awareness and hopefully purchase the equipment needed for a clinic to reach ER status.




  " I would LOVE to get in touch with you and talk about your pets! Even better, send me a picture of your dog/cat/bird/llama/rabbit. The world needs more cute spread around. "






Pet-Friendly Penticton is a non-partisan organization and will not provide any incentive, preference, or endorsement for any candidate(s) to members of the public toward deciding where to cast their votes. We simply hope to encourage as many potential voters as possible to take an active role in our community and the election process.
Each candidate will be given opportunity to respond to the Questionnaire, however, the choice to provide a response and how to respond is up to the candidate. Responses posted are original and unedited with the exception of formatting.
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