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LETTER: Willows Beach-goers deserve to have a time free from dogs

I am dismayed and disappointed to learn Oak Bay council is considering opening up Willows Beach to dogs during the summer months (May 1-Sept. 30).

The Oak Bay bylaw which currently allows unleashed dogs on the beach Oct. 1 to April 30 directly contradicts the federal regulations of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary which state, “Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside migratory bird sanctuaries.”

Seven months of the year dogs are allowed off-leash on Willows Beach; for five months they are not permitted on the beach at all. Apparently the request to allow dogs on the beach during those five months is about “equitable community access.” What is equitable about dogs having year-round access to the bird sanctuary? In spite of the seemingly good intentions of responsible dog owners, the presence of dogs on the beach is frequently disturbing to many humans and almost all wildlife.

Giving dogs a dedicated time or space on Willows Beach during the summer months is an insult to those people, such as myself, who tolerate and accept the presence of dogs in the winter without complaint. It is a threat to what is currently a beach thriving in its natural state. Have you ever walked at Willows Beach in the early morning when birds are peacefully resting and feeding? When a human in need of solace, silence, nature, and undisturbed solitude can fill their tank with the gift of a peaceful setting? I am floored that people refer to the beach as “underused” when it is actually doing precisely what it is meant to do when it is left undisturbed.

Children who play on Willows Beach deserve a dog-free zone, whether that is early morning, lunchtime, afternoon or evening. Many children are frightened by dogs, and there is no question the residue left behind by dog waste (both urine and feces) is harmful and unhealthy. Even if the waste is picked up (and it isn’t always), there is residue.

I hope council does not give in to this special interest group. They do not speak for the majority.

Jennifer MacLeod

Oak Bay