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Dogs in Saanich

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Dogs in Saanich

I am a dog owner and dog lover. I’m also a keen conservationist. I believe Saanich has plenty of room for both.  We can have convenient places for walking dogs on and off leash, in trails and parks, and also have sensitive ecosystems protected.  We can also create balance for residents who prefer or need a pet-free experience in parks. 

One thing I have zero interest in is using dogs to try to form a wedge issue to divide the people of Saanich.

“The bottom line is that this is about love and fear.   People who love walking their dogs off-leash on trails and beaches, fear that experience will be taken from them. Others who love the sensitive ecosystems and wildlife in some of our parks, fear those will be lost. People who love or need a pet free experience in parks, fear going to certain parks where dog-free visits are uncertain.  Where one person loves having a dog come up and “kiss” them, another finds that abhorrent.  There is concern from all sides that the “other side” will have an advantage in the process and have benefits removed. The PPP study is to look into solutions for this.”

Fred Haynes

People, Pets and Parks

In 2021 Saanich launched its People, Pets and Parks initiative, to involve the community in developing a fresh strategy to reduce conflicts between competing interests around pets and parks. This is ongoing. Overwhelmingly the pets in our parks are dogs, though we do have some horses and other small pets. 

People, Pets and Parks involves extensive community outreach for input, researching best practices and examining other municipalities’ successful strategies. Once complete there will be a report to Council from our consultants, with recommendations for practical solutions. As one part of where some people like to take dogs, we’ve had two years of pilot programs with the pop-up dog parks.  I am optimistic that together, these will help us find solutions and balance.

With this in mind, I encourage residents to read up on what is happening with the development of this strategy, participate with your feedback and really get engaged as opportunities come up. 

Meanwhile, as we wait for the final report, please continue to be kind to others who may have different viewpoints.

Fred

Read Fred's full response to the Happy Dogs survey here:

Evidence-based decisions form the basis of how I seek to address issues in my work and much of my personal life. I bring evidence-based decisions into all of my roles on Council, the Police Board and the CRD.

My training in medical research, board best practices and in the teaching profession help inform my evidence-based approach to decision making. From this background I understand evidence-based decisions draw from a broad range of evidence types. These are on a continuum from objective and empirical to subjective and observational.

I am sensitive to your concerns for the need to avoid the problems of anecdotes and emotional positions that can influence or override concrete evidence.

In the case of the People, Pets and Parks (PPP) study of off-leash and on-leash areas I am confident the study format process will

  • engage a considerable cross section of our park users and
  • collect information that will be able to help us arrive at an evidence-based outcome that leads to a balanced approach to the shared use of our park spaces.

On a personal level, I am looking for an outcome that includes the safety and protection of citizens, of beloved pets (dogs in particular) and sensitive ecosystems. I believe we can have convenient places for recreation with dogs on and off-leash, on trails and in parks, and have sensitive ecosystems protected.  We can also create space for residents who prefer or need a pet-free experience in our parks.

I hope your organization has encouraged many to participate in the PPP process. This will help ensure it has a broad spectrum of input and will contribute to its success.

I sense some frustration on your part at not being able to have your previous recommendations put into the decisions at the council meetings you attended. These were well considered and presented. The reason we could not “act on the spot” was because council was not and is not able to entertain recommendations from any groups on final solutions and outcomes until the PPP study is complete.

Please take the opportunity to place your evolving thoughts and recommendations into the PPP engagement opportunities.

The bottom line is that this is about love and fear. People who love walking their dogs off-leash on trails and beaches, fear that experience will be taken from them. Others who love the sensitive ecosystems and wildlife in some of our parks, fear those will be lost. People who love or need a pet free experience in parks, fear going to certain parks where dog-free visits are uncertain. Where one person loves having a dog come up and “kiss” them, another finds that abhorrent. There is concern from all sides that the “other side” will have an advantage in the process and have benefits removed. The PPP study is to look into solutions for this.

On a practical side there are other issues as well. For example, residents who have very energetic dogs want a place where their dogs can run and get the exercise they need. Dogs need socializing, so they need places to freely mix with other dogs. Some dogs are extremely well trained, others not so much. Some dog’s behaviour can be more defensive or aggressive when on-leash than off. It’s complicated.

Your own research has likely revealed that in other jurisdictions that invited the community to engage on this issue, divisiveness has been the norm.

How to heal the rift? I believe the way to heal this rift is to proceed through the PPP process. This will enable all parties to be involved for their input, and to observe how the inputs are processed. In addition, our consultants are researching best practices from other municipalities, which can help. I am committed within that process to ensuring there will be successful outcomes. I believe this will be a large part of our shared healing process.

With over 170 parks, Saanich is home to one of the largest number of city parks in Canada. We have just added an additional 68 acres of new parks. The majority of our parks are off leash. I believe the PPP will identify ways we can all enjoy our preferred uses of the parks. This outcome will help heal the rift in our community.

This term, Council and I have demonstrated that we are certainly able to change or reverse existing bylaws where the evidence-base supports such an action. In the case of your request for Gyro Park, I believe it is inappropriate for me to commit to any actions prior to the PPP results. This is likely not the response you may have preferred, but I am committed to an evidence-based solution, and to the process we now have in place.

Saanich’s experience with the pop-up parks pilot has been quite good. It also indicated a need for education on how to use these, and identified concerns some residents have. Personally, my wife and I have visited other places with “dog-parks”. Cumberland for example has a very successful one, complete with trees, a bench, small rain shelter, water tap and a bowl along with bins and bags. We noticed mainly owners whose dogs were under the age of five, and/or dogs who were very energetic frequented it. Young dogs seem to benefit from the socializing and running they do there with others. Dog owners also get to know each other over time, so that is an added community benefit. This experience was similar to that realized in the Saanich pop-up parks. Many dog owners in the dog parks also take their dogs on trails.

I believe dog parks are a useful part of the solution. Within our 170+ parks I hope permanent “dog parks” can be added to a number of these. They are not the core solution. Rather they are part of the solution. To address all the interests of our residents for recreation with their dogs, I believe we need off-leash parks, off-leash trails, and off-leash beaches, in addition to similar areas where dogs are on-leash. There is room for all here in Saanich. A balanced approach will help unify us, heal the rifts and provide spaces for happy dogs and owners.

I see the information in your introduction mentions that people are seeking more off-leash trails, beaches and park areas.
Perhaps there are ways to improve the information on options that currently exist. Some areas are not yet indicated on the Saanich web site. For example, here are three local beaches where dogs can run, swim and play off leash. Our own dogs, Beyo and Shadow have greatly enjoyed off-leash time at:
1) Telegraph Cove
2) Arbutus Cove park
3) Finnerty Cove Beach

Yes. My wife Cathy and I have “Beyo” our 11 year old Golden Doodle and “Shadow” our 15 year old Yorky-poo. Two of our sons have dogs. As a family we share our lives with five dog of various types. We take the dogs all over Saanich and beyond. We use both on and off-leash recreation experiences.

Yes, I believe the PPP is designed to collect enough feedback to provide the evidence-based information to help us make good decisions. This will be especially so if you and all others across Saanich have encouraged their networks, families and friends to participate. These broad based inputs will help to ensure the PPP is comprehensive and representative. I look forward to seeing the results, and to hearing your frank opinions of these.

This is an interesting area to explore. Things to consider include: Improve the education on licensing. Adding signage at parks, pop up dog parks, and our beaches. Using social media campaigns, and ensuring the process is accessible and simple. We can also ask staff for advice on what more can be done to affect an improved uptake of licensing. Perhaps work could be done with pet stores and vets on education of this issue. Discounts or free licences are offered when dogs are spayed or neutered, so that could be a good time for a vet to mention this opportunity.

Yes. I believe Saanich Parks has good information on absolute park use. Our parks and trails have pedestrian counters etc, in addition to the observational experience of staff. However, for the “on and off-leash” use of our parks by dogs, the purpose of the PPP study, in part, is to help gather more robust data specific to dogs use in our parks. This will help us identify what gaps there may be. As noted in my answer to Q.6, from the PPP results we can see if more work and data is needed.

Good question. As Mayor I believe deeply in bringing people together for innovative ideas and shared solutions. This process is underway in a formal fashion with the PPP study. I look forward to seeing the results of the study and I will certainly look at the need for any additional work, ideas and plans if required at that time. I remain open to all ideas and suggestions from all quarters.

I truly appreciate your questions.
You can find my dog platform summary here www.fredhaynes.ca/dogs-in-saanich

Kind regards,
Fred

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