As Saanich calls on the public once more to help reshape its policy around pets in parks, one thing is clear from the first round of feedback: residents want more control over off-leash dogs.
The “People, Pets and Parks” strategy has been in the works since 2021, when Saanich Council voted to review policies and regulations governing domestic animals in the district’s parks, with dogs linked to the majority of reported incidents.
That may be why more than 1,800 people responded to a survey in the first phase of public engagement identifying key concerns faced by park users. Issue number one? Owners who are unable to maintain control over their off-leash dogs.
“A frequently mentioned reason was the lack of clarity on the definition of ‘under control,'” project consultant Lees and Associates wrote in a summary. “Owners’ lack of awareness and training skills were also mentioned. A large number of community members have had a conflict with an off-leash dog in Saanich, including having their dog attacked or approached aggressively by on off-leash dog.”
Respondents also expressed concerns about the risks posed to the elderly and children, with 30 per cent of dog owners and 45 per cent of non-dog owners indicating it was the most important consideration.
The District of Saanich noted that it’s unique compared to other cities in that most of its dog parks are considered off-leash, so long as dogs are kept under the effective control of their owners.
While the district’s Animal Bylaw is used to enforce the requirement, it says the large size of the municipality and limited enforcement resources mean there has been little consistent proactive enforcement.
Officials say consultants received an overwhelming amount of feedback during the first round of engagement and will gather even more in the second round with a public open house and second online survey, which will then form the foundation of the strategy.
“The consulting team looks forward to continuing the dialogue with residents to ensure the strategy meets community needs and Saanich parks are preserved for generations to come,” Manager of Park Planning and Development Paul de Greeff said in a statement.