Despite opposition, the Saanich council approves dog leash requirements in parks

Despite opposition, the Saanich council approves dog leash requirements in parks

Despite opposition from residents, the Saanich council unanimously approved Wednesday evening a strategy that includes mandating leeches for pets at 84 per cent of the district’s park space.

The strategy has met with heavy objection from dog owners, who started a petition and protested the strategy outside the Saanich municipal hall on Friday.

The vote was deferred from Monday to Wednesday due to a large number of speakers at Monday’s council meeting.

Previously, under-control dogs were allowed to be off-leash in most of the district’s 172 parks and several beaches.

Starting this fall, only 57 parks will have leash-optional areas, including 12 dedicated off-leash parks.

There will be one dedicated off-leash trail at the popular Mount Douglas Park.

A sign on a temporary fence with dogs that says "Summer pop-up dog park."
A pop-up fenced dog park is pictured at Rudd Park in Saanich, BC, on June 23, 2023. Starting this fall, only 57 parks will have leash-optional areas, including 12 dedicated off-leash parks. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Eulala Mills, owner of a miniature Labradoodle named Griffin, says going on daily off-leash walks is important for her dog’s health.

She said last week on CBC’s All Points West that the leasing restrictions mark a drastic move by the council.

“It didn’t have to be a heavy-handed swing in the bylaws,” Mills said. “They’ve gone too far in the one direction.”

‘A challenging decision’

Major Dean Murdock says the bulk of input he has received has been from those opposed to the leeching requirements.

“The concerns certainly did not fall on deaf ears,” he said on CBC’s On The Island Thursday morning.

“This was a challenging decision for the council, I don’t think any of my colleagues relished the opportunity to do this.”

Three people standing in a grassy area holding signage.  One sign says "Barks 4 Parks."
Residents came out to protest the proposed strategy at the Saanich municipal hall on Friday, June 23. The strategy was passed unanimously by council on Wednesday. (Trish Founder)

Murdock said the decision was made in the interest of protecting the park’s environment and to give space to those who feel uncomfortable by off-leash dogs.

He says bylaw officers will not be handing out fines at the start, but will focus on education, ensuring proper signage is in place and having park ambassadors inform the public.

He says the council will continue to monitor and assess the impacts of the new rules, and make changes as necessary.

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