Allowing off-leash dogs in public parks was a hot topic at the May 31 Saanich council meeting.
Mayor Fred Haynes said that there has been a history of conflict over this issue. After receiving considerable public engagement from the community association, Saanich council confronted the issue on a bigger scale by conducting a ‘Paws-in-Parks’ pilot study.
“Through the summer with COVID, more people had dogs, more people were in the parks, and we had three more areas that were coming to our attention, particularly Mt. Douglas. I get a lot of emails as the mayor asking me to take action,” said Haynes.
Given the need of residents and dog-owners alike for access to a shared environment, shared spacing and the need to protect environmentally sensitive areas, council decided to ask the community what they thought of a dogs-on-leash approach at parks like Mt. Douglas.
“It was a remarkable engagement process, we had over 540 letters that were individually written in the vast majority, an amazing set of opinions and lots of recommendations on how we can share the space,” adding that it was an opportunity to hear from dog-owners while balancing that with differing perspectives.
The end result is that a Saanich-wide study of all parks will now be conducted to look at the situation holistically in terms of dog and human use.
“It’s a much bigger study, and it may not bring relief in the short-term, but given what we heard we feel that it’s the appropriate way to move forward,” said Haynes.
The council meeting brought the opportunity to hear from all sides of the debate and Haynes is confident that when working together, the residents of Saanich, staff, and council, are bound to find ways to appropriately share public parks.
Some Saanich dog-owners have already written to Haynes to express how pleased they are with the outcome, expressing their own heightened awareness of what they might be able to do as they responsibly share the parks with residents who have contrasting views.
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