The Saanich council received a lot of pushback following the controversial new bylaw created to ensure their parks were being shared amongst people, pet owners and the animals which inhabit the ecosystems in the parks.
Since the People, Pets and Parks (PPP) Strategy bylaw was first passed on June 29th, dog owners specifically have been upset that they have to leash their animals in most Saanich parks going forward.
Of the 171 parks in Saanich, 57 will have off-leash designated areas for animals, which means that some pet owners will have to travel further than usual in some cases to get their dog to an off-leash park.
“Everyone’s circumstance is different,” said Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Saanich Councillor.
“We heard from people where the park that’s right across the street from them may be one of the ones that’s now ‘on-leash’, so if they want to walk their dog in that park, as per the current bylaws, they would need to put that dog on a leash in that park.”
“If someone really wants to walk their dog on a beach, we designated one section of one beach as off-leash, so they might have to travel a bit further to get to that beach,” Dr. Phelps Bondaroff added.
In the Saanich council meeting on Monday, September 11th, just one facet of the PPP Strategy implementation was discussed.
In accordance with the PPP Strategy, council had to amend their current Animal Bylaws to be in accordance with the Strategy, and that is what was being done in their latest meeting.
Over 50 residents came out to have their voices heard in opposition to, and in favour of the changes.
The council meeting ended up being adjourned before all the members of the public could be heard and before the amendments, which were mostly clerical or elaborative, could be discussed.
Dr. Phelps Bondaroff told Victoria Buzz that the reason for the meeting being ended prior to the amendments being resolved was actually because it was getting late and council decided to push the topic until the next meeting so they can approach it with clearer minds.
“We hit 11 o’clock and I think the general consensus around the table was that’s not generally the best time to start asking questions to staff, to start discussing potential bylaw amendments and so folks wanted some time to think about things, gather their thoughts and start fresh at another meeting,” Dr. Phelps Bondaroff told Victoria Buzz
Following the issue’s postponement, there was some confusion as to why with one group in particular, the CRD DOGG Society, believing they may have convinced council to give in and allow more off-leash parks to be included in the bylaw amendments.
From the get-go, members of the CRD DOGG Society have been against the Strategy because they don’t want to not be able to have their dogs off-leash in any of the 171 parks which is what the previous bylaw allowed for.
Saanich says the reason for implementing the PPP Strategy was to make sure those without dogs and those who don’t like dogs have equal access to parks as dog-owners.
In addition to this, they wanted to ensure that the delicate and ancient ecosystems of native plants and animals can be sustained in posterity.
“Ultimately, this is a conversation about how we share space in a park,” Dr. Phelps Bondaroff said.
“Protecting ecosystems in parks is part of that conversation and I think everyone loves our parks… We need to keep our parks from being loved to death, and this is part of that conversation around how we share public space,” he continued.
Saanich council will pick up where they left off and hear from more members of the public on Monday, September 25th.
Dr. Phelps Bondaroff says that the council is not likely to change the number of parks with off-leash allowances when they pick up where they left off.