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LETTER: Dog owners shouldn’t be the scapegoat for problems in parks

Last year, dog owners lost access to all the beaches from Cadboro Bay to Esquimalt Lagoon, which had been designated part of a migratory bird sanctuary in 1923. This came on the heels of access already lost over decades of vocal minority pressure to restrict dogs in many parks across the region. Now, Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor is spearheading a drive to restrict dogs at Island View Beach, one of the last beaches where they can still be off-leash.

Meanwhile, Saanich forges ahead with its People and Pets in Parks project. They seem intent on designing public policy based on public opinion, rather than evidence-based decision-making. New restrictions are the inevitable outcome.

The CRD now uses a dog management framework each time it reviews a regional park management plan. With each plan, new restrictions on dogs are being introduced. Case in point: Mount Work Regional Park will soon go from being completely off-leash to having only one off-leash trail.

No other park user group faces this level of ongoing persecution and restriction. On the contrary, the CRD has gone to great lengths to create new opportunities for mountain bikers in the region, not cut back their access to park trails.

Off-leash access to public parks and beaches is a privilege, not a right. Dog owners earn that privilege by being responsible and respecting the rights of other park users and the environment. Off-leash dog walking is a legitimate recreational activity, and it brings numerous benefits to the dogs, their owners, and even other park users.

Dog owners are not some sort of fringe minority: more than one-third of households own a dog. We are tired of being made the scapegoat for every perceived problem in the parks. We are tired of the unrelenting attacks on our chosen recreation, and we are tired of the constant whittling away of our preferred access to the parks our taxes help pay for. It’s time for a more progressive approach to dog management in our parks.

Mark Hawkes, president

Citizen Canine Dog Owners Association

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