Dog owners who let Fido roam free in on-leash areas can expect a greater chance of receiving a $150 ticket.
Sue Hughes, spokeswoman for Coastal Animal Control Services, which works under contract for the city, said increased complaints from Nanaimo residents have prompted the company to step up patrols and issue tickets instead of verbal or written warnings.
“We did try the warning and when we took over animal control in 2010, our policy was to go out and warn people. The problem was we’d keep running into the same people repeatedly and it wasn’t very effective,” said Hughes. “We’re all taxpayers. People who don’t own dogs are taxpayers and they have the right to go to a park where dogs are supposed to be on leashes and not be accosted.”
In 2010, the service issued 43 tickets and 38 written warnings, while in 2011, 49 tickets were issued along with 34 written warnings.
So far in 2012, four tickets have been issued, but with warmer weather approaching and an increase in patrols scheduled – a seasonal officer is being hired in May to allow for seven-day patrols – it is likely that number will increase substantially.
Areas that will be most heavily patrolled are parks where the most complaints come from, including Neck Point Park, Pipers Lagoon Park, the on-leash portion of Colliery Dam Park and Linley Valley.
In 2009, the city recognized Beban Park, Cable Bay Trail and Westwood Lake Park (under the power lines) as official off-leash areas. Since then, Beaufort Park, Divers Lake Park Field, Upper Colliery Dam, St. George Ravine and Invermere Beach were all added as official off-leash areas.
In 2012, four new off-leash pilot sites will be added, including the forested area adjacent to May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park, the Northfield Road rest stop, Gallows Point on Protection Island, and Wardropper Park. If successful after a one-year trial, those areas will become permanent.
“The city has gone to great lengths and costs to implement off-leash parks,” said Hughes. “People know, the residents of Nanaimo know, where their dogs need to be leashed. They can’t claim ignorance anymore. The signs at trailheads and parks are just too evident, so there really is no excuse for people to have dogs off-leash anywhere other than the off-leash dog parks.”
Kirsty MacDonald, the city’s parks and open spaces planner, said the fourth public information session on off-leash parks wrapped up March 10, and a survey the city is conducting on dogs in parks concludes Friday (March 23).
The open house suggested dog owners appreciate the off-leash areas and most obey on-leash area rules, but there are many people who don’t want to encounter dogs off-leash while using the parks system and dog owners still need to be educated on proper disposal of dog feces.
MacDonald said the information will be taken to the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission for consideration in April.
Also in April, Coastal Animal Control Services will host dog park etiquette sessions with dog owners, featuring a professional dog trainer, to help owners become acquainted with how their dogs should behave off-leash in a public area.
Dates and time will be posted on the company’s Facebook page as soon as they’re set.
For more information on designated off-leash dog areas, or to complete the survey, please visit www.nanaimo.ca.