Last night I attended the City of Victoria’s meeting on the opening up of parks for off leash dog use. It was very interesting as this was my first city council meeting I had ever sat in on in my life. The process was pretty simple, and the rules well defined.
After the scheduled presentation, the floor was opened up to preregistered speakers.
I was quite impressed with most of the pro dog speakers. Many of them were good public speakers, were eloquent, stayed on topic, and generally represented the dog owning community well.
One lady representing the SPCA brought up some excellent points about how option 2, if chosen, is already set up for failure(the options are outlined in this pdf). First off, in option 2, a group of residents need to band together, make a proposal, and submit that to the sity before a new park can be considered for opening up. This may not happen readily in some areas. Areas that do form the coalition, and successfully get their park opened up, will then have to deal with lots of people flocking to the park. Policing such a large user group is not something that the average citizen is trained to do.
On the whole I appreciated all the pro dog people standing up having their say.
There were also lots of people opposing the suggested changes. I was actually quite disgusted with the ignorance of some of these people. One dog owner stepped up to voice his adament displeasure with these suggestions. He wanted them both removed, and to not be considered. His reasoning was that he owned a dog that got sick, and because of it’s sickness was very stressed. One day his dog turned on him and was growling and snarling at him, thus all dogs are wild creatures and can snap at any moment. He also brought up Shenika White. He seemed to feel that if dogs were allowed off leash access to parks more attacks like this would happen. The problem with this story is that The Shenika White attack was perpetrated by a couple dogs at large. As I undestood it, these dogs were normally confined in their respective yards, but had escaped. These dogs were not properly socialized, and were not being supervised when this happened. It is tragic that Shenika was attacked, but it is not relevant (in my mind) since the circumstances are not the same. He also brought up the number of fatal dog attacks evey year. These numbers are well known, and well documented. The counter argument is the number of non incidents that occur every year. For example, while walking Yoshi around Thetis lake, I have had one incident where a Pit Bull attacked Yoshi. I have had countless walks around Thetis where I have met no dogs, or the dogs I have met we have passed without incident. The number of incidents is miniscule compared to the number of times nothing has happened.
There was another gentleman who coaches the Bays United youth soccer program. He implored the council to not let the dogs on the sports fields. He felt that dogs did more damage that the soccer players. He brought up that soccer players do not play on fields when they are too wet to withstand the impact. I know this is true since a good friend of mine, Steve, who is a Bays United Div 1 coach, has told me countless times that their game was postponed on the weekend due to field conditions. My rebuttal to the gentleman would be that I feel soccer cleats do more damage to a field than a dog ever could. I have had my foot stepped on by a person wearing cleats, and I have had my foot stepped on by a running dog. The cleating hurt a whole lot more. I have seen the damage done to a field by players wearing cleats, and it is horrible. I agree that dogs can damage the field, but the damage will be in a less concentrated area than the cleats will inflict.
The youth soccer coach also mentioned that if the proposal goes through, Bays United will withold funds they had raised to improve field conditions. In my eyes this made him very petty. Why can’t he share the parks with other users?
In the end, I found the meeting informative. I found lots of people couldn’t stay on topic, and couldn’t follow the rules set out for the meeting. Many, many people talked about the Dallas Road conflict, which the council had mentioned at the beginning of the session was not to be talked about. It was brought up by several pro-dog proponents that many of them already help clean up after other park users, and that option 2 jsut forces the to do more of what they already do. Option 1 would have an immediate impact by spreading out the dog density very quickly. Option 2 could have a cyclic affect (as one park opens, a large group begins to use it and thereby abuse it until the next park opens and everyone moves on).
I fully support option 1. I personally feel that it has a chance of success, and that option 2 is indeed set up to fail.