Four-year-old Oskar Nienabar plays fetch with Lex, the dog, at Esquimalt Lagoon on a Sunday afternoon. (Black Press file photo)

Off-leash area for dogs at Colwood’s Esquimalt Lagoon remains

Motion to expand on-leash area failed at council meeting

The on-leash area for dogs at Colwood’s Esquimalt Lagoon will not be expanding to include the entire beach along the Coburg Peninsula.

Although it passed at Committee of the Whole, a motion to amend the animal control bylaw to require all dogs to be on leash between the south east boundary of the bird sanctuary and the municipal boundary failed at a Colwood Council meeting on April 23.

“I think the biggest concern was with enforcement,” said Colwood Mayor Rob Martin. “Council was concerned about putting rules in place and about the ability to actually enforce them…there’s a financial cost to enforcing.”

Martin said members of council felt if rules were being created for residents, council would need to find a way to enforce them.

Another concern, Martin said, has to do with where Canadian Wildlife Service currently places the sanctuary boundary. The boundary, according to Canadian Wildlife Service, extends into the ocean and would mean dogs also have to be kept on-leash if going for a swim.

READ MORE: Dead geese near Esquimalt Lagoon draws ire of resident

The Migratory Birds Convention Act says owners of dogs and cats will not permit their dog or cat to run at large in a migratory bird sanctuary.

Dogs are permitted to be off leash on the beach if they are outside the boundaries of the bird sanctuary, but there are no visible boundaries on the beach to mark where the sanctuary begins and ends.

In December, Colwood staff presented a report to council to change the animal control bylaw to make the entire beach an on-leash area. The report included a letter from Ian Parnell, manager of protected areas in the Pacific region for the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Parnell said Canadian Wildlife Service supports the proposal to amend the bylaw.

“The proposed amendment will enhance the conservation objectives for Migratory Bird Sanctuary as the foreshore is vitally important to many species of migratory birds,” the letter reads.

A follow-up report from April says Colwood staff and legal counsel are unable to make a firm conclusion regarding where the legal boundaries of the bird sanctuary lie.

According to the report from April, Colwood staff believe the best interpretation of where the boundary ends is at the high-tide mark of the south east side of the peninsula.

Canadian Wildlife Service staff say the south eastern boundary of the sanctuary extends from the high water mark of the peninsula, 300 feet out into the beach towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and would include the entire beach at low-tide as well.

READ MORE: Off-leash dog killed at Esquimalt Lagoon

April’s report also says benefits to extending the boundary of the sanctuary would make the on-leash area rule easier to enforce and reduce the potential for conflicts between dogs and other animals or people.

Last July, a dog died from its injuries after being attacked at the Esquimalt Lagoon.

An owner was tossing a ball for his dog, a mixed-breed bulldog, when a smaller terrier tried to get it. The owner leashed the bulldog but didn’t notice the terrier had followed them until the last minute when the bulldog grabbed it by its neck and killed it.

Martin said Colwood will still be monitoring incidents like the attack but said it becomes difficult for the city to enforce.

“We have to have expectations on our residents, especially our dog owner residents, that they maintain and control their animals,” Martin said. “That was just a really unfortunate situation, the dog death that occurred last year.”

Martin said right now, the City expects animal-owning residents to step up and leash their dogs when needed.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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