Time to rethink off-leash designations?

Waste bins overflow with dog poo at Brown’s Inlet. Photo: Michael Honeywell-Dobbin

by Michael Honeywell-Dobbin

Dog lover or not, we all know from personal experience that dog ownership in urban areas can sometimes put neighbourly civility to the test.

There are the crusty neighbours who complain about the adorable pup’s happy noises or poop on their lawn, (even when it’s picked up). They threaten to call bylaw. Seriously? Are they heartless?

Then there are the dog owners who are so blindly loyal to their dog that they feel the rules just don’t apply to them. They drop feces in little plastic bags into public bins in the heat of summer or worse, they pretend not so see when their dog drops a steaming pile into the grass where children play. They allow Fluffy off-leash wherever and whenever it suits them – in the park, on the sidewalk, outside a school. Even if Fluffy barks at and topples a toddler or runs amok at a family picnic, they simply toss their head and chuckle, “Don’t worry! He’s friendly!” Are they completely oblivious?

Unfortunately, we all know these caricatures and perhaps try not to be one of them.

In the case of Brown’s Inlet park in the Glebe, discourse around dogs has degraded to the point that enjoyment of the park is no longer possible for anyone.

Designated dog parks make sense. It means that dog owners can have a place to enjoy where dogs and humans can socialize. Well-equipped parks have convenient disposal bins.

Equally, dog-free parks make sense. It means everyone can enjoy a picnic, play with their children or throw a frisbee without fear of being accosted by an aggressive dog or slipping in a pile of dogs’ eggs.

A great neighbourhood benefits from both types of spaces. But they need to be separate and rules need to be clear. Unlike at Brown’s Inlet. Posted on-leash and off-leash times are so confusing that few people can make sense of them and some dog owners who do, tend to ignore them. There is no proper fencing. Over the past few months, things have started to boil over. Neighbours shout at one another. Waste bins are overflowing with dog feces. Bylaw officers rarely show up to educate the public on the rules or to enforce them.

Brown’s Inlet is a unique space that should be available to be enjoyed by everyone. It’s beautiful green space in summer and a popular tobogganing destination in winter. The pond provides a unique habitat for a diversity of herons and other waterfowl, amphibians, turtles and freshwater fish. For threatened painted turtles who lay eggs in the park in the early summer, canines are not only a nuisance, they are a real threat.

Maybe it’s time for the City of Ottawa to create a new fenced dog park in the vicinity, at another location away from sensitive wildlife and to designate Brown’s Inlet as an on-leash or even dog-free park at all times. City bins should be removed entirely from the park as they are an ongoing health hazard.

In the meantime, we should all familiarize ourselves with the existing rules:

Animal Care and Control By-law No. 2003-77 (edited)

Dogs in Parks

  1. No owner of a dog shall have a dog on parkland, or any part thereof, that is designated by sign as an area where dogs are prohibited during: a) certain times of the day;
  2. No owner of a dog shall have a dog on parkland, or any part thereof, where the dog is within five metres (5m) of a: a) play structure; b) wading pool; or c) spray pad. (Dog owners, this should apply to the toboggan run at Brown’s Inlet.)
  3. [Dog owners] shall keep such dog in sight and under voice control at all times, and shall promptly leash such dog when confrontations with humans or other animals may potentially develop.

Stoop and Scoop

  1. Every owner of a dog shall immediately remove any feces left by the dog.
  2. Every owner of a dog shall dispose of any feces removed pursuant to Section 37 on his or her premises. (Dumping dog waste in city bins is therefore not only inconsiderate but also illegal).

Michael Honeywell-Dobbin is a writer, business owner, husband and father of three. His work takes him all over the world, but he calls the Glebe home.

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