The issue of dogs on beaches will come before Saanich council but may be put on hold as the federal government studies the impacts of off-leash canines on migratory birds.
In early 2020, Coun. Karen Harper submitted a report highlighting issues with off-leash dogs on beaches and called for a bylaw review.
When the topic came before council in February, public input from those advocating both for and against a bylaw review dominated the meeting. After hearing the extent of the debate, council postponed a vote to allow the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association (CBRA) to conduct community consultation.
On Sept. 28, the CBRA will present a report outlining the result of the public consultation to council, however, Harper noted it’s unlikely Saanich will take any action in the near future.
Over the summer, the federal government notified all municipalities bordering the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary that it will be partnering with the Canadian Wildlife Service to study “the impacts of at-large dogs on migratory birds” in Greater Victoria, she said.
The CBRA report – submitted to council Aug. 31 – suggests Saanich either stick to the status quo with more enforcement and better signage or make drastic changes to the leashing rules with fewer off-leash areas.
Despite the pandemic, the CBRA conducted consultation over the summer, said spokesperson Liz Miller.
In June, a preliminary report – that compiled observational data, resident comments and environmental reports – was released and suggested minor changes to improve dog walkers’ beach access, implementing partial leashing and a dog-free beach zone or enforcing full leashing and a dog-free beach zone. CBRA then launched a public survey.
The goal was to come up with a solution that would make residents on both sides of the matter feel welcome at local beaches, Miller said. However, once the survey closed, the committee began work on the final report and found no “harmonious solution.”
“It’s a difficult issue with no quick resolution,” Miller said.
Harper agreed that the CBRA’s task was an impossible one and commended the volunteers for their efforts.
She’s pleased the federal government, which has jurisdiction over the bird sanctuary, announced the study as she’d called for an in-depth review of the matter in her initial motion. She expects a decision won’t be made until the federal government’s study is complete.