The message outside Saanich municipal hall Thursday afternoon was clear, a hundred dog owners gathered to show their opposition to Saanich’s People, Pets and Parks recommendations.
“Why $10 million to build these structures when most people want to have trails to get out on?” said Trish Fougner, one of the organizers of the rally.
The new strategy seeks to change the municipality’s current bylaw which allows dogs to be off-leash in all Saanich parks, taking the off-leash designation to 100 parks in the municipality, at a cost of $9-11 million in the first five years.
People like Krystine and Matt Howie, who are married, and in their 30’s, say they chose to have dogs instead of kids because of the skyrocketing cost of living.
“I see how much it costs to take care of a child and it’s just too expensive. Having a dog is much less and a lot of fun,” said Krystine.
Krystine feels like they’re not the only young couples choosing dogs over kids. They also believe if Saanich approves this new plan, more people will be forced into cars to seek out off-leash options.
“There’s four or five parks close to us that we may not be able to use now. Everybody is going to be going elsewhere,” said Krystine.
Her husband Matt thinks the “small” off-leash parks Saanich has left, don’t do enough to exercise their dogs Duke and Sampson.
“It’s just a sardine can of activity. You can’t do that to dogs. That’s no way they should live their lives,” said Matt.
At PKOLS, also known as Mount Doug, others out walking disagree, saying off-leash dogs cause problems with their dogs on-leash.
“Sometimes when dogs get really excited they get a little aggressive, sometimes their owner can be very far away and not see it,” said Anna Crawford, who says her dog tends to be reactive. “I keep my dog on a leash and would appreciate if people would do the same thing.”
For others, it’s about being a responsible pet owner.
“Knowing how your animal reacts is the biggest part about it,” said Victoria Diamond.
Those behind Thursday’s rally and online petition, which now has over 7,500 signatures, say Saanich needs to go back to the drawing board to reconsider its “anti-dog policy”.
The public will have another opportunity to provide input before council makes a decision, Monday next week.