— Pamela Roth
Paul Neate is very particular when it comes to the leash optional park he frequents for Saturday morning walks with his best friend Bailey.
The shy, wire-haired dachshund has been tackled a few times by aggressive dogs at parks in Victoria, leaving Neate feeling angry and forced to search for new locations to play.
“Dallas Road can be that way and so can Thetis, so you have to be careful with your dog there. I like going where that’s (confrontation) less likely to exist,” said Neate, who’s owned his dog for eight years.
“Some dog parks in the city have communities so if there is a dog that’s not friendly, they’ll tell the owner to stay out of there. As a group you can put more pressure on one person.”
Neate’s dog is among a growing number of pooches and humans that have been attacked by aggressive dogs in Victoria and Esquimalt.
So far this year, animal control officers have recorded 74 cases of dog bites. The victims in 35 of those were dogs, another 35 were humans, and four were cats. In 2014, the city recorded 70 dog bites and 2013 had 67.
“Every dog bite is concerning. I would be more concerned if I saw the number double or triple, but every year there are more people and more dogs in the city and more encounters. It’s just the balance of probabilities,” said Ian Fraser, senior animal control officer for Victoria and Esquimalt.
Three animal control officers regularly patrol more than 60 parks and public spaces, ensuring all dogs and their owners are acting responsibly so everyone can have a good time. Most dog bites, said Fraser, occur on or in relation to where the dog is living and the injuries are often fairly minor.
Dealing with problem dogs and their owners isn’t a daily occurrence for Fraser and his team, but animal control officers have spent much time this year responding to reports of dogs left in vehicles. Since January, officers have responded to 129 calls, but the bulk of them resulted in no violations.
“A lot of people think that it’s unlawful to leave a dog confined to a car. It’s not, as long as the vehicle is parked in the shade, there’s sufficient ventilation and there’s an accessible source of water for the animal,” said Fraser. “When it comes to an animal’s welfare, people have no hesitation picking up the phone and calling us.”
In 2014, more than 6,500 dogs were licensed in Victoria, with labs or lab cross, chihuahua, golden retriever, shihtzu and jack russell terriers listed among the top breeds.
The Fairfield neighbourhood has the most licensed dogs at 802, while Victoria West has the highest percentage of homes with a dog at 50 per cent. Only nine per cent of homes downtown own a licensed dog, with pugs being the most popular breed.