Saanich Council has decided to vote down a controversial motion that would have required dogs to be on-leash while in Mount Douglas Park.
The motion, which was put forward on May 17, called for amendments to the current bylaws in three Saanich parks, including Mount Doug, Cuthbert Holmes Park and Panama Flats.
The amendment proposed that dogs be required to be on-leash in these three parks in an effort to protect the environmentally sensitive areas and to minimalize conflict between park-goers.
“Reports from the Saanich Police Department, Parks and Recreation, Bylaws staff, and volunteer ‘Park Ambassadors’ indicate particularly high levels of human-dog and dog-on-dog conflict in two of these parks. Reports from stewardship groups indicate an unsustainable degradation of the plant biodiversity and wildlife in all three of these parks,” read a statement in the proposed motion.
The motion outlined that by recommending dogs be on-leash in these areas, it would maintain “the access of dogs to these parks, and significantly reduce the negative community and ecological impacts that Council is aware of.”
During a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, May 31, Saanich City Council discussed the motion, which has sparked a significant reaction in the community.
“This is why I ran for Council to protect sensitive ecosystems,” said Councillor Nathalie Chambers during Monday’s meeting. “We promised to protect habitats so wildlife can adapt to the climate changes bringing forward.”
“It is important for people to have places to go, but it is also important for dogs to have places to go off-leash as well as on-leash,” Councillor Karen Harper suggested in opposition to the motion.
While some councillors raised concerns over the issue at hand, others felt that there could be a better way to go about these amendments.
“I would actually suggest that a better motion, in my opinion, would be to postpone indefinitely, such that when council felt that it was appropriate they could bring it back,” Councillor Colin Plant said, highlighting that there might be a better way to deal with this subject.
“If we’re going to do this, we have to do it in a way that the public has their say,” he added.
Councillor Susan Brice echoed those sentiments stating that the “heartfelt” phone calls and e-mails received on the subject were reactionary, implying that the process to table the motion didn’t incorporate enough of the public’s input.
“Words like ‘saddened,’ ‘surprised,’ ‘shocked,’ these are not the words after you’ve been in some community engagement,” said Brice.
Ultimately, Saanich Council voted unanimously to reject the proposed motion.
“I do see that we’ve entered into a process of having more information from our residents about the value of these spaces and the value of their relationships with their dogs and how we are going to go forward and effectively balance our sharing of these together,” said Mayor Fred Haynes.
Council intends to engage in consultations and reconsider future amendment changes to off-leash dogs in the future.