The city approved its leash-free policy at Monday’s council meeting, adding 41 more locations in the city where leash-free dogs will be allowed under certain restrictions.
“I guess the best way to describe it is it’s a hybrid approach,” said deputy CAO Colleen Clack on changes made to an earlier version of the policy that many found too restrictive.
The new policy lists 61 “elite” sports fields where dogs are not allowed, three new fenced-in dog parks and rules on using approved sports fields as leash-free areas.
A full list of parks where leash-free is allowed can be found on page 57 of this report.
A fenced-in leash-free park will be built at Misersky Park on the city’s east side this summer and a second fenced-in park will be built on the Bristol Street mini soccer fields once those fields are relocated to another park after this soccer season.
A third fenced-in park, at Lee Street Park, will be added next year.
Children under six will not be allowed in the leash-free fenced in parks and anyone under 17 must be supervised by an adult.
Staff originally requested age restrictions be placed on all leash-free areas, but council amended that to place age restrictions only on the fenced-in parks.
Dogs must be kept on-leash in parks and trails unless otherwise noted and the city’s “elite sports fields” are off-limits to dogs.
There are specific sports fields where dogs are permitted to be leash free when they aren’t being used.
Signage will be posted.
Staff will also “consider opportunities for new leash free areas and facilities through the City’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan,” which is due to be completed late next year.
Only sports fields signed and identified as designated leash-free areas can be used as a leash-free area. All other sports fields are prohibited for use by dogs at all times.
The new rules state that sports fields are considered occupied during times when they are in use for any recreational purpose other than for leash free areas. Once the sports field becomes occupied, the dog keeper has to place the dog on a leash and remove the dog from the sports field immediately.
Delegate Michael Grand argued that dog owners with well-behaved dogs deserve more respect and consideration.
“We should have equal opportunity and access to the field as someone who is sauntering across the field … We’re there every single night. We’re there every single morning,” Grand said.
Helen Prinold of the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers urged council to put more consideration into the design of the proposed fenced-in dog parks.
Dogs need parks of a certain size and a certain design for them to be maximized, Prinold said.