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‘Let’s press paws’: Group formed to fight Saanich leash laws celebrates delay

The People, Pets, and Parks Strategy has left some Saanich residents barking mad

There might not have not been 101 dalmatians on hand, but there were 54 damnations and almost four hours of upset dog owners taking council to task for wanting dogs on leashes in more places.

Saanich council has proposed implementing more on-leash areas in its parks. Then, the dog owners heard about it and formed a group dedicated to fighting the changes.

On Monday (Sept. 11), council voted to pause the People, Pets and Parks strategy after 54 dog owners showed up to speak against the proposal.

Coun. Colin Plant requested that the motion be moved to the agenda of the next council meeting for further consideration.

“I’m persuaded that we need to make sure we’ve got it perfect, and although perfect may never be attainable in all people’s eyes, I’m willing to take some of the people’s guidance tonight to take my time,” said Plant. He added that he is inclined to support the bylaw, but he is willing to pause in the spirit of listening to the public.

The PPP strategy means Saanich will limit the off-leash areas to one beach, 10 parks where dogs can be off-leash, 12 fenced-in areas, 20 parks that have sports fields which will be closed to dogs many months of the year, and only a two-kilometer trail loop at PKOLS.

After several public engagement sessions and questionnaires, council unanimously approved the strategy in June over the objections of a group of dog owners. The strategy would designate specific areas in Saanich parks where dogs have to be on leash where it is currently not required.

Mayor Dean Murdock says that verbal input on the bylaw readings will not be permitted on September 25. However, the council can receive written correspondence.

Zoe Anderson, who owns Petiquette, a dog walking and training company in Saanich, spoke Monday to voice her displeasure but said she was pleased with the delay.

“(Coun. Teale Phelps) Bondaroff was one of the councillors that agreed to meet with me for a coffee, and he listened to my concerns,” said Anderson. “I invited all councillors to join me for a pack walk. He denied my invitation to join me for a walk but agreed to a coffee and a conversation. The invitation went ignored or declined by the others.”

Anderson hopes the public outcry impacted the council’s decision to shelve the amendment for now because it affects so many people in Saanich. Many have expressed that the bylaw is discriminatory towards disabled and elderly people.

She took it upon herself to visit each park and document the 57 leash-optional areas that would be made off-leash and highlighted the scarcity of space dog owners would have if the amendment were passed.

The CRD DOGG Society was formed recently, saying the district “poked the dog” and interim president Eulala Mills said she wants the residents of Saanich to feel empowered and proud of their community.

“Even though the meeting was emotional, it was respectful, calm and powerful. That says a lot about how Saanich is as a community, and one of my hopes is that the council realizes they’re dealing with a passionate group that represents a majority of citizens,” said Mills.

She also spoke at the meeting about the letters the group sent to the council on the society’s behalf.

The society was formed in August to counter the council’s decision to make PKOLS, Cuthbert Holmes Park, and Panama Flats Park on-leash only. Council claims the areas are environmentally sensitive and prone to human-dog conflict.

Mills says that the society’s goal now is to discuss creating a citizen’s advisory group with the council to work through the issues while representing all parties’ interests.

Meanwhile, the decision will recommence at the next council meeting scheduled for Sept. 25.