Dog ban a hot-button topic

One of the best Halloween costumes I saw this year was the crazy cat lady. A woman donned a bathrobe and curlers, and pinned stuffed cats

One of the best Halloween costumes I saw this year was the crazy cat lady. A woman donned a bathrobe and curlers, and pinned stuffed cats to the ensemble, mocking the stereotype of a lonely woman consumed with the care of multiple felines.

I may do a takeoff on this theme for my next Halloween get-up, as I have had a colleague call me the crazy dog lady. I have a pillow that reads, “A house is not a home without a dog.” I also subscribe to the sentiment, “A walk is not a walk without a dog.”

And I’ve taken countless walks in various locations around the region with my pooch. One particular walk does stand out. More than a decade ago, I learned that the Foreshore Trail on the waterfront to Raven is city-owned and there is no city bylaw restricting dogs on the trail.

So one cold fall day, a friend and I decided to walk our spaniels on-leash along the trail. We figured nesting season was long done and our leashed dogs were far less of a threat than the noisy trains, loose house cats or rambunctious toddlers that also frequent the walking path. Not soon after, we were approached by a man, filled with righteous indignation, who informed us that our leashed dogs were a threat to the wildlife area and we needed to remove ourselves. While I knew I was not violating any law, it was still unsettling to be so accosted. My recreational time is pretty limited, and frankly I didn’t want to spend it in confrontations with hostile naturalists. So we decided to stay away.

I know I’m not the only one to have been similarly confronted. Now the issue appears to be coming to a head with SABNES making a formal request to city council to ban dogs along the foreshore trail. At risk of incurring the wrath of birders, I am in favour of allowing leashed dogs only on the trail. Others will most certainly disagree. Even policies of other wildlife sanctuaries vary greatly. For example, the Ohio Bird Sanctuary and Summit Circle in Montreal allow leashed dogs, while others like the Inglewood bird sanctuary in Calgary or another in Delta do not. Still others put a prohibition on all dogs during a specified nesting season, but allow leashed dogs at other times.

My problem with allowing leashed dogs is that, while I would follow the rules, there may be those who will not comply. An unleashed dog could easily cause problems for wildlife.

Should a leash-only bylaw be instituted, it will have to be enforced. And this also means local citizens, both dog walkers and SABNES members alike, would have to turn their attention to making sure leashes are snapped to every collar. I want to believe that in exchange for the enjoyment of using the trail, dog owners will respect the natural value of the area and use a leash.

There will be a public meeting on Monday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at city hall for council to receive input on the subject. Or citizens can share their views by emailing, or by sending a letter.

My view is but one. But for or against, it is only by citizens sharing their opinions that city officials can decide which arguments hold the most weight.


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