A Guelph resident writes:
Sorry that I can’t challenge you with a task more intellectually demanding, but doubt seriously that I could provide you with anything more politically challenging than what follows.
I will try to make my point as direct and concise as I can. I would like to see council support a change to our bylaws covering dogs. I
am most concerned that our parks having leash free zones have become entire leash free areas throughout the parks. Children are at risk, as are the elderly and those with allergies who might care for them. Please seriously consider changing the bylaw so that any city park having playground equipment requires all dogs to be leashed throughout the park, curb to curb or within any of the park’s designated boundaries. There are other places more appropriate as leash free zones, places with less risk to children and those watching over them.
The simple fact is that the majority of dog owners are currently treating any park with a leash free zone as an entire leash free park.
The distinction between leash free zones within a park and leash required areas within a park is generally not being obeyed and essentially not being enforced at all. Citizen attempts to enforce
the distinction are met with abuse, physical and verbal, and dog owners failing to obey the distinction laugh at citizens trying to enforce the distinction, claiming there is nothing that can be done about their disregard for the rules. Unfortunately they are currently correct, as demonstrated by the example I provide below.
My current concern is initiated by a serious confrontation I had yesterday in Exhibition Park. A large Lab was running loose in the playground area of Exhibition Park, across the street from my house.
As a result, two mothers of very young children playing there were forced to get in their car and leave. They were very upset and disturbed. The only other person in that part of the Park was a man playing with another unleashed dog on the far Southeast corner of the park, a leash required public area far removed from the playground
equipment. I assumed the dog belonged to nobody in the park at the time. When I went over to see if I could bring the dog home to my back yard and call the dog control, the dog became very upset and made it clear I was not to go near it. The man playing with the other unleashed dog in the Southeast corner of the park came running to me.
This second unleashed dog was also his. He refused to leash the dog immediately. He became verbally abusive, threatened me with a large stick, tried to get the dog to jump on me, pushed me harshly away, then told me that I did not know who I was dealing with and that there was nothing I could do about his dog anyway. When I told him that his
dog caused the children to be forced to leave the park, he called the Mothers “bitches” and wondered why I cared, “who did I think I was,
the park monitor, and what did I have to do with those ‘bitches’ any way?” And so forth. When I tried to follow him home to find out where he lived, telling him so because he refused to give me his name, he ran and tried to hide behind houses. Eventually, after about an hour of my following him, he caught a cab with his two dogs, and I
lost sight of him. The cab company refused to tell me anyhthing. It was the second such confrontation I had had that day. I have had it.
About 1 out of 10 dogs in Exhibition are leashed in the leash required area of Exhibition Park. Personally, I think in general the majority of dog owners have now lost the privilege of having a leash free zone within Exhibition. I have been knocked down 3 times myself and have seen children crying because of unleashed dogs in all of the park. I even know of one elderly neighbor who was knocked down twice and forced to go to the hospital once upon being knocked down by a large
dog. He once did daily walks in the park, but gave it up. Time to stop this before someone is seriously hurt, to say nothing of the people no longer able to enjoy our park. Most owners are now simply
turning their dogs loose as soon as they enter the park, leashing their dogs only to protect the dogs from traffic on their way to and from the Park. The park is either entirely for those people, or it is
If nothing can be done, then drop the dog bylaw we have completely. We are not protecting citizens the way it stands. The current bylaw and the unleashed zones within parks with children’s playground equipment is a risky joke. Having a bylaw that can’t be enforced and one that encourages irresponsible dog owners to put people at risk throughout any park having a leash free zone, even parks with playground equipment, merely encourages irresponsibility’s that may
well generalize to other bylaws. I realize this is not a neutral issue, and not why you have chosen to serve the public, but something needs to be done before all parks are merely used by irresponsible dog owners only.
Please, please, given my concerns some serious consideration. Children should be able to enjoy Exhibition Park and parents should not have to interrupt play because of irresponsible dog owners. A bylaw that can be enforced would prevent a problem and possible tragedy in the future. What we have now does nothing other than set up citizen confrontations and run the risk of future problems, serious ones. Keep our city parks as leash zones, and short of that, keep parks servicing children leash zones only. Please. JM
I have been asked to respond to your email on behalf of Mayor Farbridge and City Council. Please note that the Operations Department has received a number of emails from residents and other Councillors regarding the Leash Free Zones in the City. After some investigation we have found that many of the Zones are poorly signed, improperly signed and some, not signed at all. We will be installing additional signs and correcting others throughout the City within the coming weeks. Regarding enforcement, the Humane Society provides some level of enforcement on our behalf and we will bring this specific park to their attention. Candidly though, the Humane Society’s staffing level only allows them to respond to complaints received. Staff are presently investigating alternate means of bringing an elevated degree of enforcement to the park areas.
Final, we agree there is merit in considering a change in the manner in which dogs are accommodated within our parks/greenlands. This is a BIG project likely requiring significant public consultation. Staff are discussing it internally and assessing whether we have the capacity to undertake the process this year given other equally high priorities. Regardless, this matter is important to us, and if it can’t be accommodated this year, then it will be a priority for us in 2008.
Derek J. McCaughan
The Corporation of the City of Guelph