Dogs have been officially banned from even coming within five metres of Maple Ridge sports fields and playgrounds for several months now.
But do dog owners even know or care that they’re not allowed to let their pets run, poop or dig up sports fields or playgrounds?
Council will try to find out how the ban, part of the new Animal Control and Licensing Bylaw passed last year, has been working, at its Dec. 2 meeting.
“It’s been in place for six or eight months now. How did it actually work? Did we get a lot of complaints?
Has it reduced the amount of dog excrement on the playing fields?” asked Mayor Ernie Daykin.
“We’ve had so many sports groups, the coaches are there half an hour ahead of time scooping dog poop off the fields, before the kids can play soccer or baseball. So it’s becoming an issue.”
Our four-legged friends’ recreational habits are also costly.
Their love of digging can be a safety hazard to athletes and costs Maple Ridge about $100,000 yearly to repair damage to sports fields. That’s a weekly procedure that requires crews to go on patrol and make repairs every Thursday and Friday to get the fields ready for the weekend.
“It’s not an insignificant amount of money.”
Daykin said he knows that most people are responsible and only a small percentage cause problems. If a person walks a dog and picks up the waste, “What’s the big deal, really?”
Although the ban has been in place for several months, the mayor has heard no feedback from people either way, from field groups or dog walkers.
He and the rest of council will get a staff report on the ban, which should explain whether it’s had an effect or not.
Daykin said enforcement and education of the bylaw was discussed when the bylaw was passed, but that the district has taken a go-slow approach on enforcement and instead emphasized educating people.
“This is what we’re doing and this is the reason why we’re doing it and try to educate people and hopefully most people would understand.”
Dogs on fields is an issue for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district, however.
“Though it’s not so much the dogs on the fields as it is what they leave behind,” spokesperson Irena Pochop said.
There may be many responsible dog owners who clean up after their dogs, but the state of the district’s playing fields shows there are just as many people who don’t clean up after their dogs, she added.
Jackie Chow said walking dogs on sports fields allows their owners to get exercise at the same as their dog and that most people pick up after their dogs.
She didn’t know however that the new bylaw was in effect.
“I clean up after her and she doesn’t bother anybody. I just think it’s a friendlier world with dogs off leash.”
People enjoy interacting with dogs off leash, she added.
Maple Ridge has four off-leash dog areas: Jerry Sulina Park, Volker Park and Albion fairgrounds.
Recently two sections of dike trails in Pitt Meadows were declared leash-optional areas.
Parks director Dave Boag said people are “absolutely welcome to bring their dogs,” to Maple Ridge parks. They just can’t go on the playing surfaces such as sports fields, children’s playgrounds, water parks or tennis courts.
“They should not be on there.”
Signs telling people of the new bylaw could be posted after the new parks bylaw is passed either later this year or early next.