Public input on a motion to review Saanich’s policies for off-leash dogs on beaches dominated the Monday night council meeting.
In January, Coun. Karen Harper submitted a report calling for a staff review of the District’s bylaws for dogs on beaches. If her motion passes, staff will be directed to report back on the efficacy of the municipality’s bylaws and provide options for moving forward.
During the Feb. 24 meeting, the chambers were packed and there were “clear sides” on the matter, Harper said, noting that about two thirds of residents were opposed to a review of the current off-leash dog bylaws.
Harper pointed out that some speakers were clearly working to “inflame the issue.”
Despite not being surprised, she was disappointed that the issue was so controversial. Her motion was to request a review along with options for moving forward and she was concerned that some residents were opposed to more information on the issue.
Three hours into the meeting, Mayor Fred Haynes attempted to speed up the input process but gave up as shouts of opposition rang out from the audience.
Council was meant to vote on Harper’s motion and several others, but after several hours of public input, the meeting concluded just after 11 p.m. The remaining agenda items were pushed to the March 2 committee of the whole meeting where council will discuss and vote without further public input, Harper explained.
Harper felt it was important to start a conversation about off-leash dogs on Saanich beaches not because she’s against it – Harper is a self-proclaimed dog-lover and has owned dogs for much of her life – but because residents had voiced concerns with specific emphasis on the effects on the environment in Cadboro Bay.
While the public will not be able to provide further input on the matter at the next meeting, residents are invited to reach out to council by phone or email beforehand, Harper said. Further correspondence will be accepted until noon on the day of the meeting.
Harper suspects her fellow councillors will agree that more information from a review would be helpful but she’s not sure if they’ll agree to ask staff for options to move forward.