At Willows Beach recently, I was stopped by a couple with their dog studying the sign at the end of Bowker Avenue. The sign indicates that no dogs are allowed on the south end of Willows Beach.
The couple asked me which direction was south so that they would know which end of the beach was off limits to their dog. I gave them the appropriate information. They then proceeded to say that it was their understanding the rest of the beach is designated off-leash. I explained that Willows is not an off-leash beach and that there is signage clarifying that dogs need to be on-leash. The three of us looked down the length of the beach and saw nothing but off-leash dogs the entire distance.
I know that enforcement of the regulations of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which includes Willows Beach, falls within federal jurisdiction. However, given Oak Bay is required to abide by those regulations, would it not be prudent to vigorously endorse and renew the “Leash Before You Beach” initiative?
Apparently there is a social media campaign afoot to encourage Saanich dog owners to bring their dogs to Willows Beach because it is deemed “off-leash.” Saanich passed a bylaw in November requiring dogs to be on-leash on Cadboro Bay Beach, so those dog owners and their off-leash dogs are now coming to Willows. They are undeterred by the federal signs that are posted which instruct dog owners to “Protect resting birds. Keep your dog on a leash.”
Many people are unhappy with this situation but feel they have no voice. They have given up and simply stay away from Willows Beach. Allowing this behaviour to continue will only serve to entrench the mentality that Oak Bay looks the other way and actually encourages defiance of the law.
I believe it’s time for Oak Bay to amend the Animal Control Bylaw, which is currently silent on the issue, and require dogs to be leashed on Oak Bay beaches. Many jurisdictions prohibit dogs from public beaches entirely; allowing leashed dogs on Willows is a reasonable compromise.