A notice of motion from Mayor Ryan Windsor before Central Saanich council calls on regional officials to immediately start a partnership with the municipality, as well as any federal or provincial authorities, to deal with the issue of off-leash dogs threatening wildlife on Island View Beach.
“I didn’t use the word ban there, because I didn’t want to pre-suppose an outcome, but I do believe there is an issue with wildlife being threatened by off-leash dogs,” said Windsor.
Island View Beach is a popular destination for locals and visitors walking their dogs, but also a resting stop for migratory birds. A federal report released this summer finds that dogs present the greatest source of disturbance for shore-based birds, with varying levels of dogs off-leash and chasing migratory birds. It should be said that the report studied Greater Victoria’s migratory bird sanctuaries of which Island View Beach is not part. Birds, however, are not aware of these jurisdictional issues and Island View Beach has seen conflicts.
According to the municipality, owners must keep their dogs leashed while at the park campground. “From June 1 to September 15, dogs must be on leash when passing through all beach areas above the natural boundary of the sea and are not allowed to stay,” it reads.
Windsor said he prepared the notice of motion after having increasingly heard concerns about the issue. “It’s pretty clear that the wildlife is pretty heavily impacted,” he said.
Windsor added later that the purpose of the motion is to create an open and transparent process with all actors.
Windsor acknowledged the political risks of the motion. “They (dog owners) are (a big political constituency) and I expect they will be vocal, but I don’t think we should be afraid of the process. The whole point of the notice of motion is to open the process up.”
On other hand, those who value wildlife also make up a constituency and the two categories are not mutually exclusive. “I know several (dog owners) who are wildlife inclined and they will be supportive.”
Windsor said it would take about six to nine months to work through the issue if the motion were to pass. “But we will probably be looking at another season where (bird) migration happens. If we could have something substantive, it would be great.”
Central Saanich’s push comes after the federal government has changed regulations dealing with migratory birds.
An analysis from Birds Canada, an advocacy group, finds that the new changes announced in the summer remove current ambiguities about the fact that the legislation prohibits the capturing, killing, taking, injuring or harassing of migratory birds and that these prohibitions apply to any activity among other improvements.
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