After much public outcry, Victoria city council has decided not to erect a fence along Dallas Road to separate pedestrians from dogs.
During Thursday’s council meeting, council voted 5-3 in favour of dropping the one-year pilot project, with some councillors saying the proposed fence doesn’t necessarily achieve the goal of making the walkway more safe for all users.
The path running along Dallas Road is an on-leash area, according to city bylaws.
“People want to walk their dogs off leash on the path, which is not currently permitted. From time to time, we do see injuries incurred as a result of dogs not being cared for properly,” said Coun. Ben Isitt, citing a number of emails he received from residents who were injured after dogs ran into them on the path.
“I don’t think members of the public should be at risk to go down to their waterfront park. As the population ages, senior citizens, people want to enjoy the waterfront, we’re going to see growing concern over the safety of this area.”
In 2015, council directed city staff to explore options that would reduce conflicts from occurring between dogs and pedestrians on the popular waterfront pathway. Recently, staff came back to council, recommending split-rail fencing be installed on the north side of the park along Dallas Road, with openings by the parking areas, as part of a one-year $60,000 pilot project.
According to city staff, formal complaints about conflicts between dogs and pedestrians along Dallas Road have dropped in recent years. In 2014, there were more than 60 complaints. That number dropped to about 40 last year and 20 in the first six months of 2016.
One councillor noted the numbers have dropped because some people have decided to go elsewhere.
However, since news broke of the proposed plan, there has been much public outcry from both dog owners and pedestrians in the community.
Councillors received hundreds of emails from residents — some of whom had constructive suggestions, others had a threatening tone if council decided to move forward.
“I don’t know that we’re in a climate to make a rational decision. I feel uncomfortable being candid in terms of the retribution that will come. That’s not a way to make a good decision,” said Coun. Pam Madoff, noting the issue originally arose after people voiced concerns about safety on the pathway.
“This is such an important part of our city that we should be able to share.”
A petition also sprouted up calling on the city to keep Dallas Road off-leash and dog-friendly, and garnered more than 700 signatures in a few days. Many residents also spoke against the proposal at the council meeting.