The Capital Regional District is tightening the leash on pet owners in regional parks.
New bylaw amendments were put in to effect March this year, which included 11 regional parks where dogs are required to be on leashes at all times – five of those parks are in Sooke.
These parks include: Ayum Creek Regional Park Reserve, Sea to Sea, Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park, the Sooke Potholes and the Galloping Goose Regional Trail in its entirety.
“The bylaw was amended in order to meet a number of management plan objectives for those parks and regional trails, including the implementation of leash regulations,” said Mike MacIntyre, acting senior manager, CRD Regional Parks.
Following the regulation changes, CRD staff started to build awareness around leash requirements for all the parks and trails through the CRD website, social media, brochures, signs and conversations with visitors in the parks.
“The focus is on educating the public with an aim to gain voluntary compliance with the regulations. We are also sharing information on how to reduce human-wildlife conflicts as there is a potential for more conflicts given the increased use of these wilderness areas. Having dogs on leash helps keep visitors, their dogs and wildlife safe,” said MacIntryre.
The new regulations are not sitting well with certain Sooke dog owners though.
“I’m a dog walker at the Potholes for over 30 years and it seems unreasonable and unfair that this action has been taken from me,” Sooke resident Gail Hall told Sooke council last week. “For the most part these are large parks and make up most of our useful walking areas, the loss of the potholes hits the hardest for most dog owners.”
She added that with the current trend of small lot sizes in Sooke, loss of areas like the Potholes removes opportunity for exercise for dogs.
“Large dogs need to run to remain healthy and happy. They have been singled out by the CRD as a threat to the parks and to humanity,” she said.
Councillors Kevin Pearson and Kerrie Rae agreed with Hall, saying they both have big dogs and don’t think it’s reasonable for dogs to have to be on a leash in all five parks.
Hall wants to find a solution or a middle-ground for the bylaw, and asked that council invite the CRD to come and explain their reasoning behind the decisions that were made.
“I wonder if we could work in some sort of a schedule so that dogs could have their time or place to run,” said Hall. “I hope there is an answer somewhere, because it’s made an awful difference to a lot of people’s lives.”
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said she understands why residents are upset with the change, having been able to walk their dogs on or off leash for years, as long as the dog was under control.
“My understanding is that the CRD made the changes because of a high number of complaints coming from the public,” said Tait. “So I would like to talk with them a little bit more to find out the nature of the complaints, so that maybe we can resolve this in a more meaningful way.”
Tait explained that council plans to have a CRD rep come to a meeting soon to try and work out a solution.
“We could maybe look at getting a seasonal schedule, or in terms of the Galloping Goose, maybe just have from a specific point onward that dogs can be off leash under control,” said Tait.