Dog Park opening in June. See video.
The show Dog Daze identified New York as a model for addressing the off leash dog problem. They have opened 40 new dog parks in the last 13 years. Additionally, they have instituted a leash free time between 9 pm and 9 am in some of the other parks; the rest of the time dogs must be leashed.
The show also talked about the political power of dogs. One person running for Mayor in San Francisco went from last place to second by supporting a group who wanted their dogs to be allowed off leash. Toronto City Councillor Karen Stintz said you must never get on bad side of dog owners. So I am sure this is a very difficult issue to address on council.
The show confirmed for me that you will never convince individual dog owners to leash their dogs because they are arguing their position from the heart. Therefore the solution must come from community leaders, must be community based (so it’s not seen as a personal attack) and it must be perceived as giving dog owners something (e.g. giving them a dog park or a time in a park that is leash free), rather than taking something away.
Perhaps the Yellow Dog Project can help.
If you have ideas please contact your city council representative.
Dog Daze follow-up call in show on CBC radio – Ontario Today. The unleashed dog problem is widespread.
There were even a couple of callers from Peterborough.
I sent an email last week to the Mayor and everyone on Council. Henry Clark responded – I let him know how nice it was to have a response.
Copy of the email:
I wanted to let everyone on council know that there is a CBC documentary tonight at 9, on Doc Zone called “Dog Daze”.
I am sure all members of council will be interested in watching this – I took this from the introduction: “Viewers will also be catapulted into the middle of skirmishes between dog lovers and non-dog people in Vancouver, San Francisco and Toronto – where the fight over a tiny off-leash park had people at each other’s throats and cost the city more than $100,000.”
They are promising it will be fun, informative and best of all, they plan to offer some possible solutions.
Ever since my husband was attacked and injured by a dog a couple years ago, I have been nervous of off leash dogs in our local parks.
I wanted to have equal access to our parks so I could enjoy a safe run or cycle, so I started to blog about the issue, emailed my council members, I met with people at the SPCA and talked to an Examiner reporter. I suggested increased signage in the parks, applying the by-law (actually fining people), increasing the presence of the SPCA in parks and/or starting an education/public awareness campaign. I have been told that these options are either too expensive or too time consuming. The only thing that came from my efforts was a lot of angry emails from dog lovers who think I don’t like dogs and should just stop using the parks.
My friend has a guide dog and walking in Jackson Park for her is a nightmare. She has contacted the Council for Persons with Disabilities to see if there is anything that could be done. I believe they are looking into the issue.
This is an issue that is not going to go away and from the sounds of the statistics in the Doc Zone article, it will continue to grow.
I’ve been back to Jackson Park the past few weeks. It’s strange, some days I don’t see any off leash dogs and other days the park seems full of them.
A week ago, I went for a walk with a friend and her dog. None of us enjoyed the walk because of the number of loose dogs we encountered. One dog came running out of the woods towards us. It was a long stare down between the two dogs before the owner arrived.
My friend’s dog is not comfortable around off leash dogs, when he is on his leash. The whole experience can be very unpleasant for both of them.
I am thinking about getting a dog, but after walks like this one I do have second thoughts. I would definitely take my dog to an off leash park, but I would be nervous with a dog on a leash in Jackson Park.
Following a meeting with Duncan Anderson from the SPCA/Peterborough Humane Society, I now realized how important it is to call every time I have an experience with a loose dog in a park.
It appears that nothing can be done if you don’t leave your name and number, the time, location and details of the dog by-law issue.
So please call or email whenever you have an experience/incident/problem in the park: email@example.com or 705-745-7676 ext. 202 or 204
Pat’s Response to Article in the Examiner
Thanks for your thought provoking article published in Thursday’s Examiner. Thanks too for providing the Bylaw Enforcement Officer with your real name and being civil with him. From my understanding – from talking with them – few members of our community agree to provide any information, and many simply tell the Officer to ‘get lost’, albeit using more colourful expletives. Their job is thankless and can be quite dangerous, not to mention the thought of having to wear a black uniform while trudging through the City’s parks in 30+ degree Celsius weather.
Having been a dog owner, I understand the desire people have to let their dogs run loose, however the bylaw is in place for good reason. Toward the end of your article, you take issue with aspects of our lives being policed even though “our habits and actions cause no difficulty or inconvenience to others”. That’s an interesting premise.
I have been attacked by dogs in our city’s parks on 2 occasions; once in Rotary Park and once at Trent University. I have also been chased on numerous occasions. Thankfully, I have yet to be knocked off my bike. The attack at Trent University happened on the first day of my summer holidays 2 years ago, and resulted in a trip to the Emergency Department, a cracked rib and multiple bruises. I was very lucky that someone close by had a cannister of pepper spray, otherwise I am quite certain I would have required stitches as well.
The dog owner had the temerity to suggest that running in the park is a bad idea when there are dogs loose. Thankfully I was able to record the gentleman’s license plate number, and the Bylaw Enforcement Officer was able to educate the man.
Two weeks ago, my wife was charged by a loose dog in Jackson Park. She is now afraid to run in the park and will only cycle there if she is with someone else. I know of two separate incidents involving a local nurse and a doctor who were both knocked down by loose dogs resulting in serious injuries. Last year a neighbour was cycling on the Rotary Trail when a loose dog ran from the bushes knocking him off his bike seriously injuring him and damaging his bike. The dog and owner simply left without so much as an apology.
A close friend who is blind and relies on a Guide Dog lives close to Jackson Park and walks there regularly. On just about every walk there, her dog is approached by a loose dog, or loose dogs. Imagine being blind and depending on your dog to determine your direction. Every time this happens for a blind person, it is disorienting and terrifying.
Whenever I talk with people about my experience with loose dogs in our city’s parks, I hear similar stories. Unfortunately, and increasingly, there are many community members who simply don’t use our city parks because they are simply too nervous about personal safety, the safety of their kids or elderly parents.
On a recent run in Jackson Park I encountered a loose dog on the trail. I asked the dog’s owner, “please leash your dog, I am afraid of dogs”. Do you know what she said? She said “why can’t we all just get along?”. I was speechless. I find the sense of entitlement and selfishnes espoused by so many people in this community to be mind boggling. Aren’t the City’s parks for everyone? Nope. Until such time, I guess I’ll have to carry pepper spray every time I venture into the park.
Many people have asked me why I haven’t responded to the Globe and Mail article written by Amberly McAteer Friday June 15th 2012 . My response to date has been that I wanted to “let sleeping dogs lie”. I really just wanted to move on. I was feeling that perhaps I had made a mistake thinking I could share my experiences, raise awareness and work as a community to find a solution so we could all enjoy the parks equally. I am now realizing that I was a bit naive.
As Amberly mentions in her Globe and Mail article, she likes to let her dog run loose in a Toronto area park. In order to gain support for her actions she knowingly misrepresented three traumatic events in my life – my husband being attacked by a dog and ending up in emergency two years ago, a dog trying to bite my husband on the day of his brother’s funeral last summer and my recent encounter with a large charging dog, while I was alone in the park.
I believe that if Amberly was confident in her decision to let her dog run off leash, she would have represented my position honestly.
I have been encouraged by people who have thanked me for trying to raise awareness, I have been saddened to hear from people who don’t go to parks with their children because of the dogs and I have been surprised by the number of people who think I don’t like dogs.
Although I am learning that having an opinion is not easy, I have decided to continue to raise awareness so that someday people with and without dogs can all enjoy the parks.
I went for a bike ride in the park Saturday night and counted 7 loose dogs.
I went to Jackson Park Wednesday night. I was planning to ride to Lakefield but Pat said, “I will go with you, I think you need to reclaim Jackson Park”. So off we went.
I couldn’t believe just how nervous I was – I slowed right down and pretty much stopped breathing between Bonaccord and the first bridge.
I had to laugh when I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw a 3 pound dog running around. (Little dogs are dangerous because they run in front of bikes but I was not in danger of an attack – I was going too fast for the little guy to catch.)
Once I got going I started feeling better. We counted 7 loose dogs that night – but 3 were out near Lilly Lake Road.
I haven’t been back for a run, but I will – but I won’t be going alone.
Examiner article and comments. Nice to know I am not alone.