Sunday, June 23, 2024

Anti-leash advocates launch organization in defiance of Saanich’s new parks strategy


A newly formed organization that calls themselves the CRD DOGG Society officially launched in late August to oppose the Saanich People Pets and Parks (PPP) Strategy.

On Thursday, June 29th, it was announced that the PPP was unanimously approved by the Saanich council.

The final decision was reached after a long ongoing process — Saanich council claimed that the implementation of this Strategy will end up benefiting everyone, dog owners and individuals alike.

The district received mass pushback from dog owners through the public engagement phase of the Strategy’s implementation, but the leash-focused motion was only one element of many within the PPP Strategy.

Another of the main elements of the strategy was to have protections in place for the delicate ecosystems of at-risk native plants within the parks. 

The District of Saanich has 171 parks with nearly 820 hectares of land and are in the process of designating 57 of those parks as potentially accommodating leash-optional/under control areas either with no-fencing, full-fencing or trails. 

Saanich Council member, Teale Phelps Bondaroff, shared that prior to passing the PPP Strategy, the district received over 350 emails and plenty of letters, capturing the complexity of the decision and the importance of pets to the public.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” he said.

“You have a vocal group of people who love their dogs and have practices that they’ve done for years…but you also have people who regularly avoid parks because they have concerns with off-leash dogs. It’s really a balancing act — trying to balance how we share space in our parks.”

The CRD DOGG Society says that not enough consultation was done with neighbourhood associations, vets and Indigenous groups in the development phase of the Strategy and now that is coming back to bite dog owners who prefer their dogs to be unleashed. 

In addition to this, they claim that the majority of Saanich residents are unfazed by dogs being unleashed. 

“Saanich wants to spend $10 million on something that most Saanich residents don’t support,” said Eulala Mills, Interim President for the Society. 

“They have created divisions and anger in our community, little of which existed before they started this,” she added.

The CRD DOGG Society believes that money would be better utilized on issues such as housing, climate change, affordability and healthy living.

They say that off-leash dog space is being reduced by 84% across the municipality, including 91% of the 21 kilometers of trails at Pkols (Mount Doug) and all beaches except Cordova Bay. 

A poll related to the Strategy showed that 30% to 45% of Saanich residents are dog owners and the district is leaving 33% of parks as designated off leash zones while protecting other parks that are more vulnerable or less suitable for off-leash dogs because of football fields, soccer fields, etc. 

The CRD DOGG Society is now 100 members strong and growing. They are laser focused on fighting this Strategy tooth and nail while trying to prevent other regions of Southern Vancouver Island be subject to similar initiatives. 

Despite the bylaw being finalized, they say they will be active at minimum until the next municipal election in 2026. 

Curtis Blandy

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