By J.W. Schnarr
There’s a misconception among some residents in Vauxhall that dogs are required to be leashed – and that’s just not the case, says the town’s bylaw officer.
Municipal Enforcement officer Jason Schreiber informed Vauxhall council during their regular meeting on Aug. 17 that he had dealt with a number of people in the area who believed mandatory leashing of dogs to be the case.
However, he said the Dog Control Bylaw does not currently require residents to leash their dogs while out in public.
“Some people thought you have to have your dog on a leash, but that’s not in the bylaw,” he said.
“It’s one of those things,” he said. “You have to have permission, and the dog has to be on a leash to be on a playground, but not anywhere else.”
Schreiber said he has fielded complaints from local residents who have seen unleashed dogs in the demolition derby grounds. While he said he is able to enforce issues such as dog owners not cleaning up after thier pets, he is unable to enforce dogs being off leash.
“They asked me why I wasn’t going after (people) about their dog(s),” Schreiber said. “I said they can walk with their dog off leash, it’s not in the bylaw.”
“So, we need to correct that,” said Coun. Linda English.
“No we don’t,” Coun. Martin Kondor immediately countered.
Council seemed divided on the issue during discussion – while some councillors said they did not want to see a lot of dogs running around without being controlled, others admitted to walking their dogs off leash themselves.
Coun. Christie Sorensen said most dog owners are already self-policing when it comes to their pets.
“Most people are going to do that,” she said. “If you can control your dog, you are not going to put him on a leash. If you can’t control, you are going to.”
Schreiber said some issues he has heard involve residents being worried about being chased or attacked by unleashed dogs. Sorensen said it didn’t matter whether a dog was leashed or not for that to happen.
“You don’t know that,” she said. “You don’t know if a tied-up one is going to get loose either.” She pointed to Coun. Kim Cawley as an example of this, who said Cawlie’s dog was big enough to drag her around.
“My dog can drag me,” said Cawley.
“If he wanted to take after you, leash or no leash, he’s gonna get you,” Sorensen said. “He’s a big dog.”
Kondor said he felt it wasn’t a big deal for dog owners to find a large grassy area and play fetch off leash.
“(But) nobody wants their dog to bite somebody either,” said Cawley.
Kondor said the issue was more of a problem between cat and dog owners.
“If you’re a cat person, you’re going to want every dog on a leash,” he said. “If you are a dog person, you’re going to want every cat (under control).”
He noted it was a different situation for playgrounds however, as they are generally a place designed for children.
“If you are in a public park where kids are playing, then yes, it should be on a leash. But if you’re in the derby area, where it’s grass, and you want to play fetch with your dog, and you’re not around kids playing on a playground, I don’t think it’s a problem.”
“It’s a pretty safe place to take a dog off its leash,” agreed Cawley.
Schreiber also said the complaints about dogs were often coming from one person, something he said made him believe it is not a really big issue.
Mayor Margaret Plumtree said some people can be quite fearful of the animals.
“Some people do have a really big fear of dogs,” she said.
“Especially if you’re a little kid,” said Deputy Mayor Richard Phillips, who added for small children, being approached by a strange dog can be “terrifying.”
Following discussion, council directed Schreiber to monitor the issue further.