[Clarification: This opinion article was prompted in response to the off-leash dog park attached to UVic campus, primarily takes issue with the allocation of resources and care of public areas, and is the opinion of its author. The Martlet welcomes certified service dogs on campus.]
I’m barking mad. Yet another park in Oak Bay (Oakdowne Park) is being pushed as a dogs-off-leash area, which will cause issues of noise, traffic, and excrement for its neighbours and deter anyone without a dog from using it.
The moment dog walkers move into a park and start running their animals off leash, you can no longer sit quietly; you can no longer run there; and you can no longer play games there.
The grass becomes contaminated with dog urine and excrement and eventually dies; who wants to sit in that? And even if you did, who wants to listen to dogs bark? Or have large dogs come up and loom over you as you sit under a tree?
Who will run in a park when they are guaranteed to be chased by out-of-control dogs? Or play a game of Frisbee in the park when every few minutes a dog is chasing your disc?
Dogs chasing runners is already an issue on Victoria beaches in the summer, and along Dallas Road walkway all year. I am a runner, and I have been chased repeatedly, and I know many runners who have been as well.
Killing the grass is not the only environmental issue caused by off-leash dogs; any environment they are let loose on, they inevitably trash. The University of Victoria is having issues preserving Mystic Vale because owners let dogs off their leashes there, though they are supposed to be on leash. Dogs on the beach disturb migratory birds that are exhausted from long flights and need to eat. Forcing them to take off and fly to a different beach is often lethal; dogs often chase them down and off the beach entirely, instead of just a bit farther away as a group of walkers may.
Other cities have had issues with the dog walkers and their lobbyists, resulting in some cases where neighbours have fought neighbours. Victoria has not yet had these issues, but the Oakdowne Park debate looks like the beginning—the dog walkers want to put up fencing and turn it into a dog run, and the neighbourhood disagrees. There was a similar case in Toronto between 2007 and 2011. First, the dog walkers convinced the city to allow dogs off leash. Then they convinced the city to fence the area and convert it to a dog park. Neighbours filed noise complaints in relation to dogs barking and people yelling at dogs. Neighbours complained about lack of access to their community park, as well as increased traffic from greater numbers of dog walkers driving to visit the park. The dog walkers didn’t care. Eventually, the neighbours convinced the city to dismantle the dog park, so the dog walkers went to Ontario Divisional Court, suing the city for the loss of “their” park. The city won and the dog park no longer stands. But, between the costs of fencing for the dog park and court fees alone, Toronto spent over $83 000, and there were other costs.
In short, to own a dog in a city is morally and ethically wrong, a case of the wants of the few overriding the good of the many. Dogs benefit only their owners, as well as cause environmental destruction, noise, pollution, and the degradation of enjoyment of parks and beaches. It is time we banned these animals in the city to keep our parks and streets clean, to preserve beaches and forests, and to allow everyone to use them.