Dog-owners may lose the ability to let their furry friends off-leash at Saanich beaches.
Council will review a report from Coun. Karen Harper asking that staff be directed to review the District’s bylaws for beach use and dogs.
Harper, who’s been a dog owner for many years, pointed out that Saanich’s off-leash dog bylaws are more than 20 years old and are due for a reassessment.
Harper said that she loves dogs and agrees they need space to run free, but she wants staff to determine if beaches are the appropriate place for it.
“This isn’t about loving or hating dogs, it’s about finding the right balance,” she said.
In the report, Harper notes that the birds and spawning fish that rely on local beaches and shores are often disturbed by dogs. Cadboro Bay is part of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary which has banned off-leash dogs since 1923, she said, but the federal rule is overridden by the municipal bylaw allowing loose dogs.
Harper also pointed out that off-leash-dog activity damages the indigenous plants growing near beaches. She highlighted Cadboro Bay’s dune grass which stabilizes the shore during storms and high water events but is “sensitive to trampling which dogs and their owners do incessantly.”
Dog owners, Harper said, “flock to Cadboro Bay’s so-called ‘dog-beach’” from all over the region during the District of Oak Bay’s annual closure of Willows Beach – May to September.
She noted that while there is a summer closure at Cadboro Bay, it only affects Gyro Park beach which extends towards Oak Bay and some dog-owners disobey the prohibition to access the dog-beach.
Off-leash dogs, Harper said, also pose a threat to the safety of beach-goers and municipal staff. She pointed out that many residents avoid beaches that permit dogs to roam free – some out of fear, other out of concerns about being knocked over, startled or bitten. There is also a risk of injury for the dogs if a fight breaks out, she explained.
If Harper’s motion is approved by council, staff will be asked to report back with options for potential bylaw changes that would be consistent with those of other municipalities in the area and with the District’s commitment to preservation.