Time to crack down on privileged dog owners

A vendor at our Farmers' Market drew my attention at dog problems endured by Ferry Island caretakers recently. This is what I found.

A vendor at our Farmers’ Market drew my attention at dog problems endured by Ferry Island caretakers recently. This is what I found.

Canada Travel, a social interactive travel website based in Parksville, refers to the Ferry Island Trail as an Enchanted Forest. The website notes that the “south end of the island is an off leash area for our four-legged friends” with a reminder that dogs must be leashed on the trail.

A more informative webpage dedicated to Ferry Island is published by local historian Doug Gent and includes valuable and detailed “Park Dog Rules.” Rule #1 reminds all dog owners to “pick up your dog’s Poop! In all areas of the Island! Winter and Summer.” Rule #2 reminds users that the leash off area for dogs is limited to the area south of the washrooms. A telling line in Gent’s dog rules goes to the topics of this column: “It’s the human that is the problem usually.”

Owning a dog is not a privilege, it is a right. A right – any right – rests on a foundation of moral, ethical, and legal principles. These principles, as it concerns dog owners who visit Ferry Island with their pet(s), call on the owner, not their dog, to respect the park’s leash regulation, and to pick up their dog’s droppings and deposit them in the receptacles provided for that purpose. It is not the campground caretaker’s responsibility to clean up after your dog.

A noteworthy moral and ethical principle associated with the right to walk a dog on the Ferry Island trail and campground area is to show respect for caretakers acting in the pursuit of their duties and responsibilities. The appropriate response to a caretaker’s reminder that dogs must be kept on a leash is to apologize and to immediately leash the dog. Ignoring such reminders, hurling derogatory remarks at the caretaker instead, is not a right that goes with taking a dog for a walk on Ferry Island.

Dog owners who consider themselves to be privileged, free to ignore leash rules and not obliged to pick up their own dog’s poop, do make life miserable for everyone. It takes but a few transgressors to create problems for the majority who are responsible dog owners and who act with respect for the rights of others.

City Council could and should do more to get a grip on the problem of dog owners who abuse Ferry Island. The phrase “easy walking trails, off leash dog zone” included in the brief Ferry Island reference in the City’s 2017 Annual Report contributes to the problem. The phrase can easily be interpreted to mean that walking trails form part of the off leash dog zone.

When attentive reminders earn the campground’s caretakers insults and abuse, it is high time for Council to direct bylaw enforcement effort so as to provide for more than an occasional drive through the park. Ferry Island’s problems are human caused (irresponsible dog owners); they call for intensive enforcement by officers on foot patrol.

The City’s Annual Report discloses that the Animal Control Officer dealt with 61 complaints under the Animal Control Bylaw. This amounts to tokenism. The bylaw clearly spells out a dog owner’s responsibility to remove dog waste (section 9.0), and the off leash area’s limits (Schedule “C”) are explicit. The fines provide for violating of any of this bylaw’s provision (section 22.0) are significant. What is lacking is a determined effort by Council to enforce Bylaw No. 1255-1991 on Ferry Island.

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