The prospect of dogs being leashed in order to walk along parts of the Holland Creek Trail continues to cause a stir at the Ladysmith council table.
Recently, a complaint came forward after a man was bitten along the trail due to a dog, at which council asked for a recommendation to come forward from Parks, Recreation and Culture staff.
That recommendation arrived at last Monday’s regular council meeting at City Hall, but council decided to postpone voting on the recommendation until the next meeting, following further information coming forward from the Town’s animal control officer.
Part of the recommendation, and arguably the most significant, states “that council amend Parks Usage Bylaw 1995, No. 1158 as amended to state that dogs must be leashed during the period between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. while on the portion of Holland Creek Trail between Methuen Road and upper Holland Creek bridge.”
The idea of having dogs leashed at any point along the trail has always been much to the dismay of confessed “animal lover” Coun. Gord Horth.
“The challenge will still be all about enforcement,” Horth said at the meeting. “I’m an animal fan but can think operationally. This is not a liability issue for the Town. We are now saying people can go there 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the dogs will be leashed. But without enforcement, that won’t happen. It takes time. It’s already in the bylaw that the dogs have to be under control. It’s about enforcement and getting better signage to encourage people to do the right thing.”
Horth thinks the recommendation will prompt “two opposing views in the community” if passed.
“That’s not healthy. Simply putting a dog on a leash doesn’t mean there won’t be an altercation. This is an issue in every community in the world. In Victoria, Dallas Road is one of the most heavily used areas after Stanley Park where people can go with dogs. And it works because they have better signage.”
Coun. Duck Paterson was slightly confused at the time frame picked by Parks and Rec.
“How many people will be using the trail at that time? If the dogs aren’t leashed until 10 a.m., most people will be using the trail earlier than that, as they go to work,” he said.
Mayor Rob Hutchins said that the recommendation allows “people who are intimidated to use the trail at that time.”
Horth remains unconvinced.
“Now we only have five parks that are off-leash and that will become four,” he said. “We’re not being particularly dog-friendly here. I now have my third dog and I’ve never had an issue. We’re setting ourselves up for failure here, and neither party will be happy with this decision.
“We should dedicate our resources to enforcement. We are moving too quickly. We should just act responsibly and say give them a $100 ticket [if the dogs are irresponsible] and then if they do it again, $300, like they do for bad drivers. Some people take a lot of time and effort to make sure their dogs act responsibly.”
The animal control officer will be speaking at the next council meeting, scheduled for Monday, June 2 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Asked if council would indeed be voting on the recommendation at that meeting, Hutchins said, “I hope so. We’ll either amend it, postpone it, or pass it.”