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VIDEO: ‘Chained’: Saanich dog owners protest at city hall over leash restrictions

‘Am I going to be angry if this goes through? Yes! We all will be very disappointed’
Saanich dogs and their owners protest proposed off-leash strategy (Ella Matte/News Staff)

Trish Fougner says she’s feeling tied down by what could be the future of Saanich parks – a future filled with stricter leash rules.

“I would choose other places to go because I can’t be chained by a leash,” said the organizer of a protest on Thursday (June 22) against the district’s proposed People, Pets and Parks Strategy.

Fougner and other Saanich dog owners protested with their furry friends on the front lawn of Saanich’s Municipal Hall against the strategy that would limit off-leash spaces.

Saanich council will consider the strategy and hear from voices in the community at a committee of the whole meeting at 6 p.m. on June 26.

Not only is Fougner the leader of the protest, but she’s the face of Happy Dogs in Saanich Parks on Facebook. Speaking on behalf of her community, she says “we have a lot of frustrated Saanich residents who feel like they haven’t been listened to. There are parts of the strategy that are coming to the table Monday that we agree with, but there are parts, especially the off-leash, which we feel are unfounded, unwarranted and we haven’t been heard for two years now on this topic.”

If the proposed strategy is approved by Saanich council, the remaining off-leash areas in Saanich would be limited to one beach, 10 parks where dogs can be off leash everywhere, 12 small fenced-in areas, 20 parks that have sports fields which will be closed to dogs many months of the year, and a trail loop at Mount Douglas that was originally 1.5 kilometres and is now two km, which removes 93 per cent of the 21 km of trails.

“There’s 21 km of trails and they want to stick us on a 1.5 km trail. That has now been updated to 2 km, which is a slap in the face,” said Fougner, an active user of the Mt. Douglas trails. “Am I going to be angry if this goes through? Yes. We all will be very disapointed.”

Other dog owners are concerned about the possible hazards of the off-leash areas as 47 of the 57 parks Saanich proposed have leash restrictions of some kind, including playgrounds, sports fields, fenced-off dog areas and high-traffic-volume streets.

“I believe there is McRae Avenue that runs along the park and it’s a busy road, too,” said Don Harris, a fellow Saanich dog owner.

On Instagram, someone shared a video on their account showing how Saanich’s restriction for dogs to stay 10 metres away from playgrounds has limited many proposed off-leash spaces for dogs. As seen in the video, Harvest Lane park is one of the spaces this would affect.

The petition to Stop Saanich Council from taking away our off leash parks is past its goal of 7,500 signatures.

ALSO READ: ‘Frustrated and angry’ Saanich dog owners sign petition to stop leash rules

About the Author: Ella Matte

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