Despite the light rain, on Tuesday morning dog walkers made their daily pilgrimage to Cadboro Bay beach to mingle and exercise their pups. Each time a friend arrived – human or canine – the conversation paused and joyful greetings rang out in the cool air.
On this day, they discussed the Saanich council meeting the night before that was dominated by public input on Coun. Karen Harper’s request for a review of the District’s bylaws allowing off-leash dogs on beaches.
About two-thirds of residents were opposed to a review, Harper told Black Press Media on Tuesday.
Jerry Donaldson, the self-proclaimed Cadboro Bay Dog Walker, was among those opposed. He’s been using the beach for 30 years. Five years ago, he started a dog walking business as a retirement project. He takes his “pack” of about eight pups down to the beach every day.
On Monday, Donaldson, who has four dogs of his own, was one of many residents who provided input on Harper’s report that he felt was based on “valid concerns” about migratory birds. However, he said the case was “weakened” when other “side issues” about dogs were brought in.
“The situation that she [Harper] presents is far from accurate,” Donaldson said during the public input period of the Monday evening council meeting.
He emphasized that the dog walkers who frequent the beach are respectful and mindful of their pooches’ behaviour. Donaldson, for example, doesn’t let his whole pack off-leash at the same time, always picks up after them and “leashes up” if people voice concerns.
“It’s about coexistence,” said Louise Egan, a Gordon Head resident with a 16-year-old miniature pinscher named Tobias tucked in her raincoat. She brings her dogs down to Cadboro Bay beach on a daily basis.
Egan, who also addressed council during the Feb. 24 meeting, agreed that while Harper’s motion was brought up under the guise of environmental stewardship, the focus has shifted to canine behaviour on the beach.
Off-leash play is important for dogs because a leash changes their behaviour, Egan said while a playful Aussiedoodle wove between her legs.
Egan pointed out that the dog meet-ups don’t just benefit the canines, but the owners have become friends and look out for one another. If a member of the group doesn’t show up for a while, the others check in to make sure they’re alright, she said. She emphasized this camaraderie while addressing council.
Donaldson said Saanich dog walkers who oppose the bylaw review don’t plan to go down without a fight. Council will vote on Harper’s motion for a staff-review of the bylaws on March 2.