City of Victoria staff recommend banning off-leash dogs from Gonzales Beach

City of Victoria staff recommend banning off-leash dogs from Gonzales Beach

In the summer months, Gonzales Bay is packed with beachgoers.

But when September rolls around, it becomes a much more popular spot to bring your four-legged friends.

“We look forward to this beach opening up, in the summer months it’s for the people right, and the dogs stay off, and now as of September the dog walkers come here,” says Gary Robert-Johnston, who frequently walks his dog along the beach.

However, this could change as the City of Victoria staff are recommending that council remove the popular beach from the designated off-leash areas.

It comes after the city received a letter from The Canadian Wildlife Service asking to make changes to the bylaw, based on complaints from residents.

“It’s to bring the bylaw in compliance with the migratory bird regulations that are federal,” says Victoria Mayor, Lisa Helps.

Gonzales Beach is the one key area where off-leash dogs can have a negative impact on migratory birds.

“These feeding stopover sites are very important for birds and this is a treasure we have in Victoria here, that these birds stop here and feed on route on their migration,” says Jannaca Chick, a member of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory.

The VHMBS boundary stretches 28 kilometers from Portage Inlet all the way to Cadboro Bay.

Gonzales Beach is where the boundary overlaps and although there are other off-leash areas identified in the bylaw along coastal areas, they are adjacent to the boundary and do not extend into the VHMBS.

Friends of the sanctuary say over the last 50 years there have been huge declines in bird numbers, a collapse of bio-diversity, and a retreat of nature.

“In Greater Victoria, we have some of the best wildlife, one of the best natural environments in urban Canada so it’s a huge asset and it’s worth a serious thought, and it’s worth serious measure to make sure it stays with us forever,” Says Jacques Sirois, chair of the VHMBS.

However, for those who walk their dogs on the beach regularly, they aren’t convinced the dogs are the problem.

“Here we are at Gonzales and if you look at the amount of first of all human use and the impact on the environment and then development all along the bay here. To choose dogs and just prohibit them, I think, is short thinking,” says Michele Worth, who walks her dog along the beach at Gonzales.

If council approves the move, city staff plan to work with the Canadian Wildlife Service on updates signage to provide further clarity on the impact off-leash dogs can have on these habitats.

[email protected]

Hannah LepineHannah Lepine

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!